Los Angeles Clippers' forward Jamal Crawford led his team to a 102-99 victory on Friday evening, further solidifying his case for a third career Sixth Man of the Year award in the process.
In addition to his 30 points, five rebounds, and four assists, Crawford contributed the game-winning shot in the fourth quarter, a three-pointer over Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors with 0.2 seconds remaining. While incumbent All-Stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and others were rested for the rapidly-approaching playoffs, Crawford filled in admirably.
Much like the rest of the 2015-16 season, Crawford has been a weapon off the Clippers' bench. Even his teammates, like center DeAndre Jordan, are endorsing the guard for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Jordan recently got loud in the locker room, asking Crawford: ““Hey Jamal, can I write your speech for you? Is there a speech?”
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What helps Crawford's case this year is Griffin's troubling season that cost him several months of action. Initially, Griffin was out indefinitely due to a partially torn left quadriceps he suffered in late December last year. Then, an incident with a team employee ended with Griffin breaking his hand, prolonging his time on the shelf.
Crawford, 36, utilized the vacancy to perfection, giving the team a boost only he can provide. As NBA.com mentioned last week, Crawford leads the league in points per game among players with three starts or fewer (15.5) since Griffin's injury.
He has also become one of just 30 players in NBA history to score at least 32 points at age 36 or older during the Clippers' win over the Oklahoma City Thunder last week. While he's shown the ability to erupt for scoring clinics, Crawford is grateful to do it for a contending team.
The Unselfish Star
“You could put up numbers on bad teams, but it has little impact,” Crawford said. “I think it’s a selfless act…you take great pride in it, because you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m doing my part for the team, and it’s about the team winning.’”
After spending nearly a decade starting for teams, Crawford never reached the playoffs – becoming the longest tenured player in the NBA without a playoff appearance. Then, he embraced the role of a bench player, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award with the Atlanta Hawks (2010) and Clippers (2014).
Since his first season as a reserve over six years ago, Crawford has not averaged less than 14 points a game. He's also appeared in at least 60 games during each of those years.
While Crawford has made a compelling case, he will face some stiff competition to win the Sixth Man of the Year award again. Thunder forward Enes Kanter, Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin, and several others all have legitimate claims to the award as well.
However, as some of Crawford's past and current coaches have put it, the award may be renamed to the Jamal Crawford award for future winners.
“It would be an incredible honor,” Crawford said in reference to potentially winning the award for the third time. “It’s not something I take for granted.”