LOS ANGELES — Did East Coast bias rob the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford of the NBA’s Sixth Man award?
It’s possible. The New York Knicks’ J.R. Smith was named winner of the award Monday after averaging 18.1 points off the bench, but the Clippers believed Crawford was at least an equally deserving candidate.
“He’s been a huge catalyst for us all season, from Day 1,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “So it’s hard for me to look at it and say Jamal didn’t deserve that. But we can’t control the voting. Every statistic and everything he’s brought to our team is proven.”
Among reserves, Crawford was second in the league to Smith in scoring average at 16.5, but he was a far better clutch shooter, finishing third overall in fourth-quarter scoring and fourth in 3-point shooting percentage in the fourth. He and Smith tied for the league lead among bench players with 29 games of 20 or more points.
Crawford played a little more than four seasons with the Knicks and said he knows there can sometimes be a media bias toward players in the east.
“New York is New York,” he said. “I’ve been there before so I’ve seen it first-hand. It’s funny because last year, everybody wanted to run ‘Melo (Carmelo Anthony) out of town. Now he’s up for MVP. That’s just New York.”
Smith received 72 first-place votes and 484 points from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters. Crawford got 31 first-place votes and 352 total points.
Smith essentially won the award with a strong final month. In late March, he had three consecutive games in which he scored 30 or more points off the bench, the first time that had been done since 1990 by Milwaukee’s Ricky Pierce.
Crawford’s contributions were consistent throughout most of the season. He was second on the Clippers in scoring and set a franchise record with 149 3-point baskets. He was a previous winner of the Sixth Man Award, picking it up in 2010 with the Atlanta Hawks.
Winning it again, he said, “would’ve been great, but honestly I feel we have the best bench in the NBA. So I kind of see myself and J.R., even though people look as us as scorers off the bench, I see us in different roles.
“He’s the second guy over there. After Carmelo, he’s taking 19-20 shots. And they need that from him. So for us, I feel like we have the best bench, and I’m just a piece of that.”