Jamal Crawford drive

Jamal Crawford added working on his game to his summer to do list


NBA players are in the top one percent of the top one percent of basketball players. You simply won’t find a more talented group of ballers on the planet than the guys who suit up in the association.

Talent alone, though, normally doesn’t get a player to the top of their profession. It takes more than natural ability; it takes hard work.

It sounds like Jamal Crawford, entering into his 13th season and coming off one of his poorer campaigns, decided he should start to put in some of that work.

Here’s what he told Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times:

“This summer was actually the first summer I worked on my game. I usually just play off of raw talent,” he said Thursday after the Clippers’ practice. “But I just wanted to work on something and be in great shape coming into camp. I came here right after Labor Day, which is the earliest I’ve ever gone to any team in the summer, and all the guys were here, committed to getting better.

“Now it’s part of my lifestyle, working out and being here, shooting and getting shots up. It gives you more confidence that if you miss one or two, you know you’ve been working on it every single day and your teammates have confidence because they see it as well.”

He was Sixth Man of the Year on raw talent?

While it’s a bit troubling to hear that a veteran player like Crawford hasn’t worked much on his game over the years, it’s good to hear that he’s starting to now. The Clippers have championship aspirations and Crawford is expected to be a major part of that as an off the bench spark that can create shots when Chris Paul is resting. Crawford is also an underrated passer, posting an assist rate right in line with Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson this past season.

All those aspects of his game will be needed this season and, in that respect, it’s good to know that he was at the Clippers’ facilities early and building up the camaraderie that is a staple of contending teams.

That said, it’s still hard not think of what Crawford could have been as a player had he actually been putting the work in all these years. What separates the the very good from the great and the great from the all-timers often isn’t talent, but that desire and drive that manifests itself in the extra time put in. At least Crawford is putting it in now.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.