When the NBA season tips off tonight, it will mark the start of Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford’s 17th year in the league, but possibly the sixth man’s most highly anticipated. The 36-year-old joined The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday and gave passing grades to a roster he thinks can compete with the best.

“Every year is a new opportunity, it’s really really exciting. That’s why this is one of the best groups we’ve had. I feel like it’s the right pieces at the right time,” Crawford said. “Obviously there’s some really really tough teams out there, but I don’t see why we can’t be one of the elite teams as well.”

Injuries sustained to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in last year’s playoffs derailed Los Angeles’ season. However, if the Clippers’ star nucleus can stay on the court this season, Crawford says there’s no excuses.

“Losing your two best guys at the wrong time last year within a five-minute span, I’m not sure any team could have recovered from that in that kind of time. So for us, health is very important,” Crawford said. “We really, really feel good about our team, feel great about our coaching staff, feel great about our organization, our ownership group. It’s on us now, and as long as we stay healthy, we like our chances and hopefully we will be there in the end.”

During the offseason, teammate Paul Pierce announced this will be his last year in the league, following Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Kobe Bryant in retiring at season’s end. A generation of players and part of the game, in Crawford’s eyes, the league will never be able to get back.

“Obviously the game continues to evolve. There will always be great players, but for me, personally, that was the generation that kind of helped inspire me,” Crawford said. “Those were the guys I was watching, people my age bracket were watching, coming up and obviously time is something you can’t beat, but when you see a Paul Pierce, a Kevin Garnett, a Tim Duncan, you have to pay homage to those guys, because they’re some of the best players to ever play.”


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