Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, left, tries to work past Oklahoma City Thunder guard Sebastian Telfair during a game on Oct. 30. (Paul Buck / EPA)
Jamal Crawford has already gotten past the player he is chasing in NBA sixth-man-of-the-year lore.
Crawford was a 16-year-old high schooler playing in an open gym when he used his crossover dribble to maneuver around Detlef Schrempf, then a forward for the Seattle SuperSonics.
"I did a move," Crawford recalled Monday night, "and he just stopped and gave me a look like, 'Hold on, that can't be legal. That can't be real, right?'"
It was as real as Crawford's chance to pull even with Schrempf, the last player to win sixth man of the year in back-to-back seasons when he did it in 1990-91 and 1991-92 while playing for the Indiana Pacers.
Crawford, the reigning sixth man of the year, is leading all reserves in scoring, averaging 19.2 points in games in which he has come off the bench entering the Clippers' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. Phoenix's Isaiah Thomas (15.5) is second and New Orleans' Ryan Anderson (15.3) third.
The Clippers wouldn't have won a record six games on their recently completed seven-game trip without Crawford's sustained scoring splurge. He tallied 19 or more points in six games on the trip, including five games of at least 21 points.
Crawford was also making 38.5% of his three-pointers before Monday, his best mark since he shot 44.8% from that distance in only 23 games during the 2001-02 season.
Crawford is trying to become the first three-time sixth man of the year, having also won the award during the 2009-10 season with the Atlanta Hawks. Four players have won it twice: Crawford, Schrempf, Kevin McHale and Ricky Pierce.
Crawford would like to emulate Schrempf in another way: by becoming an All-Star. Schrempf was chosen three times in his 16-year career while Crawford, a 15-year veteran, is still seeking his first selection.
"It used to bother me earlier in my career," Crawford said of being overlooked for the honor. "But then I realized my peers look at me at a pretty prestigious level and that made me feel good."
Schrempf was primarily a starter in all three years he was an All-Star, though he did come off the bench in 22 games with the Pacers during the 1992-93 season.
"All-Star is the pinnacle, but they're both prestigious," Crawford said when asked to compare that award to winning sixth man of the year. "Honestly, I just want to win, like, period. Basketball first and then anything [else] that comes is just a blessing."
A clean start
The Clippers closed November with four consecutive victories, but Coach Doc Rivers was glad to see one thing go: his mustache.
"I don't miss the mustache at all," said a clean-shaven Rivers, who had grown the facial hair as part of the "Movember" movement to support men's health issues. "You won't be seeing that again soon."