Jamal Crawford joins Clippers on road trip, aims to play vs. Lakers

ByArash Markazi ESPN logo
Sunday, April 5, 2015

DENVER -- Jamal Crawford couldn't help but smile as he walked onto the court.

After struggling to simply walk without a limp two weeks ago, Crawford was back and going through practice with his Clippers teammates Friday and shot around before Saturday's game against the Denver Nuggets, which the Clippers won 107-92.

The Clippers' two-game road trip to Portland and Denver represented Crawford's first road trip with the team in a month and the first time he has practiced and shot around with his teammates since suffering a right calf contusion March 2 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The next step for Crawford is returning to a game, which will likely happen as early as Tuesday when the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers.

"It's great being with the team," Crawford said. "It's weird because when you're out of the loop you forget how the flights are. I forgot my headphones on the flight but it's always fun being around the guys."

Crawford losing his headphones has been the only setback he's faced over the last week as he has turned a corner in his rehabilitation and looks to return for the final four games of the regular season.

"Just hopefully playing before the end of the season," Crawford said. "I don't want to put a date on it, because you don't know how your body will react, things of that nature, but I think it's definitely a step in the right direction."

Doc Rivers, who had been hesitant to comment on Crawford's status, finally acknowledged Saturday that the reigning Sixth Man of the Year would be back soon after returning to practice Friday.

"I don't know when he'll play but he looked good," Rivers said Saturday. "Tuesday he may be good (to go), maybe even tomorrow (Sunday), I doubt that, though. He's close. The news is that he's going to play before the season ends."

While Crawford had to be carted from his car to the Clippers locker room just a couple of weeks ago during a time when Rivers wasn't even sure if he would be back this season, Crawford said he never had any doubt that he would be back before the playoffs. He was just frustrated that the injury lingered for as long as it did and didn't really began to heal until recently.

"To get kneed in the calf, I've played my whole life and a lot of people have played their whole lives without that happening," Crawford said. "It's weird how it played out. Last year was actually more serious because it was a strain. This one was a contusion and it took longer, but at least we knew there was some sort of impact. That's where all the swelling came from."

While Crawford said he is under no restrictions on the court, he said there is still some swelling in his right calf that will likely be there for the rest of the season. He has had the calf drained twice but the last time was over two weeks ago.

Entering Saturday, the Clippers had gone 11-5 without Crawford and likely will play one more game Sunday against the Lakers without him before welcoming him back Tuesday. While the Clippers have played well in Crawford's absence, it hasn't made it any easier for him to watch on the sidelines, especially in games where the bench has been a disappointment.

"I'm immersed in basketball every day of my life, whether it's watching or playing," Crawford said. "Not being able to play has been driving me crazy. I'm glad the team's played well, but it's just hard. It's really hard."

Crawford is averaging 16.4 points and is one of the leading candidates to win his third Sixth Man of the Year award. Crawford ranks first in the league in bench scoring and was first in the league in fourth-quarter points prior to the injury. The Clippers' second unit has struggled without Crawford against playoff teams, losing double-digit leads in their only two losses since Mar. 14, to Golden State and Houston.

"That's definitely the goal, to play as soon as possible and be smart obviously," Crawford said. "It's not like a strain where you can come back early and hurt it. It's healed, but now you've got to get your wind and game shape and not compensate somewhere else."