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Clippers' Jamal Crawford is getting an initiation as an initiator

High-scoring Jamal Crawford is a natural shooting guard, but he's learning to play the point with Chris Paul injured. Someone has to when Eric Bledsoe needs rest.

January 19, 2013|By Broderick Turner

It was the start of the fourth quarter and Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe was on the bench for a much-needed rest in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies last week.

Chris Paul was unavailable, sitting out with a bruised right kneecap, so Coach Vinny Del Negro seemed to have a quandary on his hands.

Who would be the backup point guard?

Jamal Crawford is the backup shooting guard, but had been pressed into service to back up Bledsoe.

But during the Memphis game, Matt Barnes and Grant Hill, both small forwards, and Crawford initiated the offense.

So, Del Negro was asked, when those three are in the game, who is the backup point guard?

"All of them," Del Negro said. "We're just kind of doing it by committee a little bit. We just change up the play calls a little bit, put guys in different areas."

It's not as if Crawford, Barnes and Hill don't have the skills to run the offense.

And when the Clippers give the ball to Lamar Odom, they can also run things through the versatile 6-foot-10 power forward.

That Memphis game was a prime example. Hill had four assists against the Grizzlies, Odom three and Crawford two.

"Lamar and Grant and Matt move especially well without the basketball," Del Negro said. "They make the game easy with some give-and-go things. And we all know how well Jamal can score the basketball. So we're just going to feed off each other and pick our spots to give Bledsoe a rest when we need to."

Crawford said he had to change his approach when he was running the offense. He couldn't just look for his shot first.

"When I'm playing point, I've got to make sure I set the table for everybody else," Crawford said. "I've got to think about them first, as far as getting Matt some shots, getting Lamar and Ronny [Turiaf] and giving Grant some looks. That's my thought process."

That's not easy to do, Crawford said. He has a scorer's mentality and that's what the Clippers brought him here to do.

There is a reason why Crawford is third on the team in scoring, averaging 16.7 points per game.

"They are different mentalities that you can have," Crawford said. "When you're a two [shooting guard], you can attack, you can score. When you're a one [point guard], you've got to think about everybody else and get them going. So they are as far apart as can be."

But when Bledsoe is on the court playing alongside Crawford, the 6-5 shooting guard is allowed to go back to what he is best at doing.

"When Bledsoe comes in, I play the two," Crawford said. "I can be aggressive and be a scorer. Before this [injury to Paul] happened, I was going to be more aggressive anyway because I noticed with our second unit, the whole season it's been me being aggressive. We've kind of played around that. I haven't been as aggressive. I've been tiptoeing around a little bit."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BA_Turner


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