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Guard Crawford eager to join Clippers

Posted Jul 12 2012 11:49PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jamal Crawford looked around the NBA, sized up teams like Minnesota and Philadelphia, and promptly decided to head down the West Coast to join the Los Angeles Clippers.

Getting recruiting calls from All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, along with DeAndre Jordan, convinced him it was a good move.

"When players of that caliber want you on their team you really have to sit down and look at that," Crawford said Thursday by phone from Seattle. "Me and Chris talked for a while how good we could be."

The 32-year-old free agent guard, who played in Portland last season, signed a four-year deal worth $21.7 million on Wednesday. Crawford said he's excited to be with the Clippers, who beat the Trail Blazers in three of four games during the lockout-shortened season.

"They actually wanted me and it feels good to be wanted," he said. "You definitely don't want to let anybody down who puts themselves on the line for you."

Crawford became available after opting out of his $5.2 million contract with the Blazers to become an unrestricted free agent. He averaged 13.9 points, 3.2 assists and 2.0 rebounds in 60 games in his lone season with them. He shot 38 percent from the field, 31 percent from 3-point range and led the NBA in free-throw shooting at 93 percent, a weakness for the Clippers last season.

"In Portland we started out 7-2 and one of the best teams on the West Coast," he said. "It was later that we kind of hit a nose dive, Coach got fired and all of a sudden we became a team in transition. It's very tough to be on the teams that are in transition."

Los Angeles is the fifth stop in the 12-year veteran's career. He had stints with Chicago, the New York Knicks, Golden State and Atlanta. Crawford was the league's Sixth Man of the Year with the Hawks in 2009-10, and he's willing to come off the bench with his new team.

"Up until Atlanta I pretty much started and that was the knock, can you win with him as a top scorer?" Crawford said. "I haven't felt this rejuvenated since then. I felt like I really haven't had a home since New York. This is the same feeling I had in New York, that it's really a family."

Despite losing general manager Neil Olshey to Portland last month, the Clippers have been active in upgrading their roster. They acquired forward Lamar Odom from Dallas while sending Mo Williams to the Utah Jazz in a four-team trade, signed Crawford and 36-year-old Chauncey Billups re-upped in a one-year deal. Billups, who averaged 15 points, was limited to 20 games last season because he tore his left Achilles' tendon in February.

"We felt like these three pieces were key for us moving to the next stage," coach Vinny Del Negro said.

After securing Crawford and Billups, the Clippers canceled a scheduled meeting with free-agent shooting guard Ray Allen.

"We just had targeted Jamal. We weren't sure the direction Ray was going to go," Del Negro said. "Chauncey and Jamal have the same agent. We just felt like having Chauncey and Jamal was the best option."

Crawford said he's been watching the Clippers from afar the last couple years and he's impressed with the changed culture of the franchise.

"The organization is doing everything in its power to win and win now," he said.

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