BILL DWYRE

Jamal Crawford's fakes are the real thing

The Clipper has a devastating crossover along with a smooth jump shot, and he also has the feeling that he has connected with L.A.

It is not only the picking-and-rolling and alley-and-ooping that have made the Clippers the NBA's best imitation of the Flying Wallendas.

It is also Mr. Poetry in Motion, Jamal Crawford.

He is usually their sixth man, but he has played his way lots closer to the top than that in fan appeal.

"I feel like I've really found a home here," Crawford says, and lights up with stories about running into fans at Subway and Starbucks and hanging out for a while for a chat.

"I feel like I've really connected," he says.

The attraction for NBA fans is natural, as natural as Crawford is to playing the game. If they make a movie about him, Robert Redford will play Crawford, slam dunk for a big win, and all the lights in the arena will explode.

Crawford has such a slick style, he could play the game just as easily on a trapeze. He'd fly through the air with the greatest of ease, as he does every night for the Clippers, who are delighted to have him in their high-wire act.

He is the third-leading scorer on the team, with a 16-point average, behind the franchise pillars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. But it is more how those 16 points arrive.

Crawford glides into his jump shot like a soaring eagle. Years ago, somebody wrote that the legendary Oscar Robertson was too slick to sweat. Crawford is too smooth to wrinkle. If he were a dancer, he'd be Fred Astaire. His jump shot is Freddie Couples' whipped-cream golf swing. He floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee and is the NBA's answer to Muhammad Ali.

He has that shooter's swagger. You see him get the ball, you see the little crack of an opening between him and the defender and you know what is going to happen next. Up and in. Sometimes the net tickles a little, sometimes it doesn't even bother.

Other guys in the game have impressive range. Crawford is open when he gets to the parking lot next to the arena.

His coach, Doc Rivers, has said several times that Crawford "makes shots that no other human could."

He has a classic crossover move that he says he learned watching Isiah Thomas, Tim Hardaway and Allen Iverson.

"Iverson's was the best," Crawford says.

"It was filthy.

In NBA parlance, that is high praise.

The crossover is best described as a quick flurry of right-to-left dribble and similar quick hip and leg movement. In the old days of the NBA, before it became part pro wrestling, the referees would call that "palming the ball." Not now.

If you fake the defender out so badly with your crossover move that he looks foolish, you have "broken his ankle." Crawford is the current NBA fracture king.

He is asked if anybody in the league can stop the crossover. His next-door locker mate answers.

CHICAGO

More