Jamal Crawford’s road to free agency and thus to the Timberwolves wasn’t the most common.
After being part of a trade that sent him from Los Angeles to Atlanta as part of the Clippers’re-make of their team, the Hawks then bought out Crawford considering they seem to be more in a rebuild. That made Crawford a free agent.
Crawford has been rumored to Minnesota many times throughout the years and this time, it all came to fruition as his deal with the Timberwolves was announced Wednesday morning.
The two-time Sixth Man of the Year hit free agency late, but that didn’t stop teams going after him fast. For Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau, he didn’t necessarily envision Crawford being available, but he’s aware of just how much of a business the NBA is.
“It did come as a surprise, just because of what transpired out there, being moved,” Thibodeau said. “But you always … when you’re looking at teams, you know things can change, so you want to have flexibility, you want to be positioned where you can add guys.
What are the Wolves adding with Crawford?
He’s entering his 18th year in the NBA, but don’t let that fool you. At 37, Crawford is the Benjamin Button of the NBA. He played in all 82 games last season for the first time in his career while playing 26.3 minutes per game. He’s two years removed from winning the Sixth Man of the Year with the Clippers while averaging 14.2 points per game and 19 per 36 minutes.
First and foremost, Crawford brings scoring to the bench. When you see smoke with Crawford, there is soon to be fire. He’s a player who can heat up fast. He’s a veteran who can lead on the floor and off. He’s a player who knows what sacrificing individual success means. In 2009, after nine seasons in the league, Crawford accepted a switch to the bench for the greater good of the team. How did he respond? By scoring 18 points per game while winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Ho-hum.
“I think the fact that he’s excelled in both roles,” Thibodeau said. “He’s started and there was a stretch where he virtually averaged 20 points a game for a long period of time. His durability, the way he can come off the bench and it doesn’t take him a long time to get going. As soon as he walks into the game, you’re aware. I know from coaching against him, you have a game plan for him, a specific game plan, you have to defend him into the game. Anyone who commands that kind of attention makes it easier for his teammates.”
For Crawford, Minnesota became attractive when he saw Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson join the dynamic duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, two of the best young players in the league.
“You see KAT, you see Andrew Wiggins, you see what they’re building, then to see Jimmy come here and Jeff and Taj and all these guys, it’s like ‘they’re serious,’” Crawford said. “I saw where they’re at, where they’re going and were I think they’ll end up, it just made sense on every level and I’m excited to be here.”
The Timberwolves are serious. Actions speak louder than words. But if history tells us anything, the collection of talent the Timberwolves have added this offseason is used to winning. And that has to have Minnesota fans excited.