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The first of many chalupas? New guards Felton, Crawford help lead Blazers over century mark

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT New Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford goes to block a shot by Utah's Earl Watson as Portland wins its preseason opener at the Rose Garden 110-90 Monday night.

The Trail Blazers' new backcourt leaders did not waste any time making their presence felt Monday night.

On his first shot in a Blazers uniform, point guard Raymond Felton nailed a 21-foot fadeaway jumper. Then, with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter, guard Jamal Crawford bounced a backdoor pass to Elliot Williams, who hit a 20-foot jumper, giving Crawford his first assist with the Blazers.

Said Felton of his first impact play with the Blazers: 'It felt good.'

Said Crawford of his first impact play with the Blazers: 'It felt really good.'

Starter Felton finished the preseason opener with nine points, four assists and three turnovers in 23 minutes. Crawford, the 2010 NBA sixth man of the year who figures to lead Portland's second unit, scored eight points and had seven assists against three turnovers in 22 minutes.

Both players were happy to be with the Blazers for their 110-90 win over the Utah Jazz at the Rose Garden.

'The crowd was so welcoming,' Crawford said. 'I definitely hear that and pay attention to it. The (crowd) basically made me feel at home.'

Felton, a 27-year-old, 6-1, 205-pounder, who came to Portland when the Blazers traded Andre Miller to Denver, was able to control the offense in half-court sets and on defense. And his hustle put the Jazz guards under constant pressure.

Felton said he was most pleased with the way he was 'running the team both offensively and defensively." He said he was "just trying to pressure the ball, get things started. Offensively, pushing the break, getting guys easy shots, putting guys in great positions. That's the main thing.'

Crawford, a 6-5, 200-pounder, signed with the Blazers last Thursday as a free agent. He said he looks forward to beisg the first option off the bench during the condensed 66-game post-lockout season that starts Dec. 25 (Portland opens Dec. 26 at home against Philadelphia).

'It's a really good role,' Crawford said. 'We have a lot of really good players. When our bench comes in, it's up to us to maintain the lead or even build on it because we're going to have a lot of games in just a short period of time.'

Crawford is a hybrid guard who is comfortable playing both the 1 or the 2.

'I'm just a basketball player,' he said. 'So at different parts of the game (I will do) whatever Coach (Nate McMillan) wants. If he wants me to play the 2, I'll go focus on that, or if he wants me to play the 1, I'll try to get other guys the ball as well.'

When he was playing the 2 on Monday, Crawford showed an ability to move away from the play and get into open space. At the 1, Crawford was dynamic with the ball in his hands.

'That's a huge part of my game,' Crawford said, of his shake-and-bake ball-handling. 'Whenever you can handle the ball like that, you always have the opportunity to make something happen. If a play breaks down, if a shot clock goes down, you always have the opportunity to get something for your teammates or get something for yourself.'

Felton, on the other hand, is much more comfortable playing point guard and running the offense.

'I have played the 2 before, but I'd rather play the 1,' he said.

Still, Felton did enjoy occasionally letting Crawford handle the point-guard duties when they were in the game at the same time.

'It's fun when you can just run downcourt and you know he's going to do the right thing with the ball,' Felton said. 'Jamal is a great scorer, and he has all-around game. He really knows how to get people involved. He can really pass the ball. He can create his own shot but he also can create shots for others. That's big.'

The 31-year-old Crawford is well-known for his abilities as a scorer - he has averaged 15.2 points over his career. This season, though, he wants to prove that he can do more than just shoot.

'Most people know me for scoring,' he said. 'So through the preseason and throughout the season, I want to show that I can do other things. I want to show different parts of my game and get other people the ball and make stuff easy for them as well.'

Perhaps the biggest change Crawford and Felton bring to the Blazers is a love of pushing the tempo and trying to get fastbreak points. Portland, which has been known for playing a half-court game, scored 12 points off fastbreaks against the Jazz.

'That's something that I want to bring to the team,' Felton said. 'Gerald (Wallace) and I got a lot of traps in, got a lot of turnovers, got a lot of steals, and it became contagious and everybody started getting deflections. Being aggressive on defense, that's the way you can run a whole lot easier and get a whole lot of easy buckets.'

Blazers guard Wesley Matthews said that it will take the Blazers some time to adjust to the new guards' desire to run the fastbreak, but he likes the idea that running the court could be an option for Portland this season.

'It's new for us to be running the way the are,' Matthews said. 'That's what they like to do. I like it. They were pushing the tempo, finding people when they were open and making plays.'

The one regret Crawford had after the game was that he missed a 3-pointer and a layup late in the fourth quarter when he could have pushed the Blazers' point total to the century mark.

Even with the quick impact he and Felton made on Monday, Crawford said there is potential for growth.

'Oh, I wanted to get the chalupa for the fans,' Crawford said. 'There's always room for improvement. But I'm sure we'll get a lot of chalupas before the season is over.'