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Jamal Crawford wins second sixth-man award, says this one means more

NBALos Angeles ClippersSportsColumnPro BasketballBasketballJamal Crawford
Clippers' Jamal Crawford says second sixth-man award means more because he won it with a good team
Jamal Crawford of Clippers: 'I didn't know what a family was on the court until I got with these guys'
Sixth man of the year Jamal Crawford credits

Little Jamal Crawford never went anywhere without his basketball.

He pounded it into the sidewalks of Seattle, dribbling around anyone he encountered while prompting quizzical looks.

He brought it with him on planes, begrudgingly putting it underneath the seat only when forced to do so.

He took it to his sister's high school when he was a speck of a 3-year-old, making shots on a regulation goal as the older kids looked on in amazement.

"I'm going to make you guys proud," the tyke told them.

He's still doing it all these years later.

The veteran Clippers shooting guard accepted the NBA's sixth man of the year award Thursday for a second time, having also won in 2010 while playing for the Atlanta Hawks. The runner-up last season, Crawford became the first Clipper to win the award and the first player to do so with two teams.

This award was more meaningful to Crawford than the one he won with the Hawks because it came with a team capable of playing for the NBA title; he never made it past the second round of the playoffs in his first 12 NBA seasons.

"I've been good on bad teams, but nobody really recognized me because you get the label as a loser, somebody who can't really succeed on a good team," Crawford said during his acceptance speech at the Clippers' practice facility.

The Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder head into Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday night at Staples Center with the series tied at one game apiece.

Crawford's latest award came after what he called his best NBA season. He averaged a league-high 18.6 points per game off the bench, but it was his improved rebounding and defense under Coach Doc Rivers that elevated his game.

"Honestly, Doc Rivers has changed the way I view basketball," Crawford said. "I was known more as a scorer and I was known more as the guy who if somebody scored on me, I was like, I'll get it back. I can outscore them, I know I can. But him and his staff have made me so much more of a well-rounded player and they've made me appreciate the little things."

Crawford, 34, is part of a second unit that has outscored its Oklahoma City counterparts, 71-44, over the first two games of the series. Crawford has repeatedly embarrassed the Thunder's Derek Fisher with his crossover moves and even outmaneuvered the warp-speed Russell Westbrook on one play.

Crawford scored 17 points during the Clippers' Game 1 rout, his three-pointer with about eight minutes left giving his team a 27-point lead and allowing starters Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to happily walk from the scorer's table back to the bench, their nights finished.

Crawford's brilliance is largely rooted in his crossover dribble, which became legendary when he executed the move when he was only 16 against Detlef Schrempf in a pickup game, forcing the Seattle SuperSonics forward to stumble.

Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas, who coached Crawford for two seasons with the New York Knicks, once told Crawford he was a 6-foot-5 version of himself.

Asked by The Times last year if Crawford's crossover reminded him of the moves he used to make, Thomas said, "I wish I looked that good."

Crawford thanked his teammates for allowing him to become part of something he had never experienced with his first five NBA teams.

"I didn't know what a family was on the court until I got with these guys," Crawford said. "I've been on a lot of teams and usually guys go their own way. But with us, everybody's included, everybody's a part. We spend so much time together, they make everybody feel like family."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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