ATLANTA — Accepting a backup role for the first time in his career, Atlanta Hawks guard Jamal Crawford was rewarded for his unselfishness Tuesday by being named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Crawford won the award going away with 580 of a possible 610 points, including 110 out of 122 first-place votes. Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks finished second with 220 points and Anderson Varejao of the Cleveland Cavaliers (126 points) finished third.
Crawford averaged 18 points a game in 31.1 minutes off the bench in his first season with Atlanta. He shot 44.9 percent from the field to help the Hawks win 53 games and earn the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Hawks are the fourth NBA team for Crawford, who finally made the playoffs for the first time in his 10th season.
"You have to check your ego at the door," the 30-year-old said. "It's all about winning. You do what you've got to do."
The Hawks already had a solid starting five in place last summer when they traded two little-used players, Acie Law and Speedy Claxton, to Golden State for Crawford. Even though he'd started at all levels of his playing career, Crawford embraced the chance to play for a winner.
"There was an opportunity here to have tremendous notoriety coming off the bench," general manager Rick Sund said. "I told him if we were going to take this to the next level, be a championship-caliber team, we needed someone to really make an impact off the bench."
Crawford got off to a slow start — "I didn't want to step on anyone's toes," he said — but he wound up ranking second on the team in scoring even though he never started a game.
He was usually on the court at the end of the game.
"I told Jamal that everyone can't start on this team," coach Mike Woodson said. "But it doesn't matter who starts — it's who finishes."