By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — There are the disclaimers that the award was first presented in 1982-83, too late for John Havlicek, the original, and that Michael Cooper won it zero times in what could only have been voters trying hard to not pay attention for six or eight years. The historical perspective is not ideal.
But Jamal Crawford just became the fourth player to win Sixth Man of the Year twice and that means something beyond a formidable 2013-14 as a Clipper and one of the best fourth-quarter scoring closers in the league. Kevin McHale did it, Ricky Pierce did it, Detlef Schrempf did it and now Crawford joins the special list.
Crawford officially becomes one of the best role players of this and a few other generations, in other words. McHale was an All-Star one of the years he earned the hardware and a future Hall of Famer, but also a starter the seasons with the most impact. Schrempf was known as more than a scorer. Pierce, he was known a scorer. That’s Crawford too.
“He’s one of the great sixth men of all-time,” coach Doc Rivers said at the Clippers practice facility Thursday before Crawford was officially presented the award. “I don’t even know because back then they didn’t name them — Havlicek, it should maybe be called the John Havlicek Trophy. The thing I like about it, when you think about John, who I got to know very well in Boston, and when you get to meet Jamal, very similar people in the fact that just really nice people. The fact that they both clearly could start on any team that they play on yet they choose to come off the bench because they think that’s the right thing for the team, I think that speaks volumes for both.”
Crawford won the first time 2009-10 with the Hawks, before the award went to Lamar Odom, James Harden and J.R. Smith. He has become that dependable in the role. He has also become, at 34 years old, the oldest to win and the first to do it with two different teams.
This time, Crawford did it by also changing, becoming more than a scorer at a time when the Clippers were pressed in the backcourt with injuries to starters Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. Rivers said Crawford was one of the best passers on the team when Paul was out and that his defense got better this season, two aspects never before connected to the shot-happy guard.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Crawford said of the historical significance. “I’m a student of the game and a lot of my teammates are, so we’re always asking if you saw this game or watched this YouTube video from back in the day. I don’t know all-time. I didn’t get a chance to watch all those guys in person. I know Ricky Pierce, Kevin McHale and Detlef Schrempf won it twice and there’s been some great sixth men with (Manu) Ginobili and Jason Terry and guys like that. I don’t know where I rank. I think that’s for you guys to decide when I’m finished. I just hope one day when J.J.’s (his son) old enough to understand he can look back and say, ‘My dad was pretty good.’ “