Crawford’s newfound commitment paying off

Bulls fans might read this item and think, “This explain a lot.”

But keep it in the context of Jamal Crawford’s surprising run for the Los Angeles Clippers early this season, not the rocky start to his career with the Bulls.

Crawford told the Los Angeles Times before the season that this was the first time he ever worked on his game during the summer. He actually practiced shooting, for a change.

“I usually just play off raw talent,” he said in October. “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.”

The payoff has been rewarding for coach Vinny Del Negro’s Los Angeles Clippers. Crawford is averaging 20.5 points, with a phenomenal shooting line of 51.4 percent from the field, 42.2 percent from 3-point range and 90.2 percent at the foul line.

The Bulls actually thought Crawford was a point guard when they drafted him in 2000, but that idea left the building long ago. He won the NBA’s Sixth Man Award in Atlanta two years ago, then was shut down completely by the Bulls in the second round of the playoffs.

Saturday’s upcoming rematch could be a different story. The Bulls face Crawford and the highflying Clippers at the Staples Center for Game 2 of the circus road trip.

Los Angeles is off to an impressive 6-2 start behind Crawford, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, improving center DeAndre Jordan, and backup point guard Eric Bledsoe.

“Now you can’t just key in on me,” Crawford said recently, according to “You have the best point guard in the world right there and another superstar in Blake. … I’m the fifth, sixth option.”

Crawford’s quick start brings up another issue. He talked last season about how he was hoping to return to the Bulls. His scenario of a sign-and-trade with Atlanta for Ronnie Brewer might have been wishful thinking, according to team insiders.

But there are plenty of chances to look around the league and think again about what the Bulls could have done at shooting guard in the last year or so. Here’s an update on the candidates:

Caron Butler, Clippers: Remember, he visited with the Bulls before they landed Richard Hamilton last year. Butler was coming off a knee injury and was priced out of the Bulls’ range. But the Racine, Wis., native has been good, averaging 12 points last year.

J.J. Redick, Magic: The Bulls signed him to an offer sheet in 2010, which the Magic matched. Redick looks good this year, averaging a career-high 14.7 points and shooting 48.1 percent from the field. He’s a free agent next summer, so maybe the Bulls will try again.

O.J. Mayo, Mavs: An early favorite for “bargain of the year.” Mayo signed for just over $4 million this season in Dallas after being let go by the Grizzlies. So far, he’s averaging 21.8 points, easily a career-high, and is an astounding 58.5 percent from 3-point range (31-for-53). No one saw this coming, but talented players are often a good gamble.

Courtney Lee, Celtics: The Rockets wanted to trade him for Omer Asik in 2011. Maybe the Bulls should have done it, since Asik is in Texas now, anyway. Lee’s averaging a mundane 5.9 points in 24 minutes for Boston, though.

Jason Richardson, Sixers: He’s another guy that was out of the Bulls price range. He’s at 9.8 points and shooting 35.7 percent overall for Philadelphia. Hardly a bargain at $5.8 million.

Kyle Korver, Hawks: It would have cost the Bulls $5 million to keep Korver for another year. He hasn’t heated up yet in Atlanta, shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point range.

Ronnie Brewer, Knicks: Now, this one hurts. New York plucked Brewer for a minimum salary contract worth $854,000 and he’s been an unsung catalyst in the Knicks’ fast start. He’s averaging 9.0 points and an amazing 5.8 rebounds in 25 minutes, and is shooting the ball well — 47.4 percent overall, 8-for-17 from 3-point range.

The Bulls might be looking for new shooters next summer. Maybe Brewer will have sympathy for his former team’s plight.

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