What's up, Doc?
Jamal Crawford's Sixth Man of the Year stock, that's what.
Asked whether the 14-year veteran deserved to win Sixth Man of the Year honors, the Los Angeles Clippers head coach replied in predictable fashion:
There's not much else you can or should expect from Doc Rivers. Crawford is his player and in the running for his second Sixth Man of the Year award. What's he supposed to say?
"Look, Jamal's been great. But I have a special place in my heart for Taj Gibson."
"J-Dog has been fantastic. Bottom line, though: Markieff Morris plays like a god in purple."
"Crawls With Squirrels has been sensational. I'm just not sure how you bet against Reggie Jackson, who's basically the closest thing to a Russell Westbrook clone there is."
For what it's worth, Kevin Durant also agreed with Rivers' opinion on Crawford.
Coaches tend to side with their own players. Honesty that conflicts with their duties as a motivator is typically avoided. Even if Rivers wasn't convinced Crawford deserves the Sixth Man of the Year award, he's unlikely to admit it.
The thing is, Crawford deserves every bit of praise Rivers is raining down upon him. The 34-year-old has indeed been fantastic, averaging 18.6 points and 3.2 assists per game for the championship-seeking Clippers, having what is easily his best season since 2009-10.
And wouldn't you know it, that's when Crawford last won Sixth Man of the Year, while he was with the Atlanta Hawks.
Let's be the cool kids on the block and take a look at his numbers this season compared to that one:
|J-Crawf Doing His Thing|
Statistically, his 2009-10 campaign was better. But let's be real: So what?
Crawford put those numbers up for a Hawks team that was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, because that's what the Hawks do. They were mediocre then, and they're mediocre—probably worse—now.
This year's contribution means more because it's coming on a legitimate NBA title contender. He's also playing alongside offensive connoisseurs in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. It's not the Jamal Crawford Show every time he steps foot on the floor.
There's a real case to be made for Crawford as the favorite. He's been the ultimate reserve. Winning Sixth Man of the Year would be the cherry atop his already ice-cream-sundae-poured-over-an-oversized-brownie-and-drenched-in-hot-fudge season.
Unfortunately for Crawford, there's some tough competition this year, most notably from Gibson, who, as Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley puts it, is a serious threat:
I'm not saying this should be the deciding factor in the discussion, but rather a conversation starter. Something that can move these flat-earth voters out of basketball's dark ages.
Something that can capture the true of impact of a two-way force like Gibson. Something that could help the big man claim what is rightfully his but won't be given to him: the 2013-14 Sixth Man of the Year award.
Even if we, like Buckley, were to assume Gibson deserves it but won't win it, Crawford's health could prevent him from winning.
According to The Los Angeles Times' Ben Bolch, a sore left Achilles could keep Crawford out until the playoffs start. While that doesn't erase everything he's done thus far, it does prohibit him from capping his regular season off on a high, Sixth Man of the Year-clinching note.
"I'd be surprised if we saw either one of them until the playoffs, maybe," Rivers said of Crawford and Danny Granger. "That's a concern. That's where we're at right now."
Appreciate Crawford for the elite sixth man he is, whether he's formally recognized for his efforts or not.
That's where everyone else should be at right now.