Jamal Crawford’s Absence Spelling Doom For L.A. Clippers?


The Los Angeles Clippers’ backup shooting-guard and sixth-man of the year candidate Jamal Crawford may be unavailable to the team for the remainder of the season due to a left calf strain that hasn’t been healing like the team expected it to.

Crawford represents the only player coming off of the Clippers’ bench that is a consistent offensive threat. Though advancing in age (35) Crawford can still do what he has always done throughout his career: shoot. While Crawford may not be as agile as he used to be, his shooting stroke is still very much alive, as is his confidence in that shooting stroke.

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Without Crawford, the already shallow Clippers may have some concerns heading into the playoffs if they are to do it without their main scoring punch off the bench. The second-unit will likely have to hope for, and rely on a hot-hand every night, possibly in the form of guard Nate Robinson, who has the reputation of being able to catch fire on a moment’s notice, but what if no one is on fire coming off the bench?

What do the Clippers do then?

One possibility is to play their more-reliable starters more minutes, but is that really a viable option? If the Clippers find themselves in a battle for positioning before the post-season, they may be forced to ride J.J. Redick and Chris Paul for 45 minutes on some occasions before the post-season even begins.

Obviously, this method wouldn’t be ideal, as the risk of injury would go up, but even more likely, fatigue may set in and impact performance come playoff time when the starters will need to regularly play big minutes in close games. While this would appear the most reliable option for the Clippers, it should be a last resort if they are to have any hope of having their stellar back-court playing at their peak in the post-season.

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  • The aforementioned method of finding the hot-hand off the bench, and riding with it in hopes of giving rest to starters, and filling up the stat sheet may very well work, but is it reliable enough for the Clippers to lean on? Nate Robinson can fill up the scoring column in a hurry on some nights, while during others his high volume shooting style could be a liability on the offensive end for LA when his shots aren’t falling.

    Especially since he will presumably be on the floor with other second-unit players, most of whom are solid offensively, yet not capable of high scoring totals a majority of the time, plus his defensive shortcomings are simply part of the deal with him; they always have been.

    Austin Rivers may also be called upon for a larger load of minutes, and while his defense is, at most times, better than Robinson’s, he isn’t really one to catch fire early to provide instant offense. All-in-all, Robinson is the best bet for the Clippers should they look to replicate Crawford’s impact with another player, but they should keep him on a short leash should his shots fail to find nylon early.

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    Whatever the Clippers elect to do in Crawford’s absence, it most likely won’t fill the hole left by the scoring-machine they bring off the bench. If Crawford can find a way to get healthy before the playoffs, it would breathe life back into the Clippers thin rotation, and allow Doc Rivers to use a mixed lineup should he choose to down the stretch. Crawford is a useful tool, and may be the thin veil that keeps the Clippers in a tough Western Conference series come playoff time, should he return.