Jamal Crawford in the J.R. Smith fan club

One player dribbles the ball like it's a yo-yo, leaving defenders in the dust with his ankle-breaking crossovers and crafty behind-the-back moves -- all the more remarkable in traffic in a pick-and-roll or facing two defenders on a fastbreak.

The other player makes the most challenging of shots, stepping back with supreme athleticism -- like he did on two game-winning jumpers this season in the baseline corner -- and catching passes in hard-to-reach places for alley-oop finishes.

Through their different theatrics, both are putting on arguably the best campaigns of their careers -- and they're doing it off the bench, while leading their teams to the second-best record in their conference.

Not only are J.R. Smith and former Knick Jamal Crawford leading candidates for the Sixth Man Award, but they're also being talked about as first-time All-Stars, with voting coming to a close on Monday. While Smith is averaging 17.0 points and 2.9 assists for the 24-13 Knicks, Crawford is at 16.2 points and 2.5 assists for the 28-9 Clippers.

Both guards are also good friends, and they occasionally tweet each other.

"Jamal and I have a unique relationship," Smith told ESPNNewYork.com recently. "Even when I was in Denver, he was in Atlanta, we used to talk all the time, so it's not so much about Sixth Man. It's just about how our team is doing, how we're helping them out."

Said Crawford, "J.R. is a good guy. I've known him for a long time. He's very talented and I'm happy he's in a situation he's in. I know he's had a lot of success with coach [Mike] Woodson. I've played a lot of my first year with coach Woodson [in Atlanta], so I kind of envisioned how J.R. would fit in there, and it's been a great fit for him."

Crawford told ESPNNewYork.com it's "very cool" that both of them are finally in All-Star talks.

"It's different because for a while you don't hear that," he said. "There's probably less of a handful of guys who have really made the All-Star team as reserves, but being with the Clippers and the Knicks, I think they're two great stories on both coasts, in big markets, and I think we're both doing really well helping our teams out."

When asked to differentiate his game from Smith's, Crawford said it's his position and Smith stands out more with his jumping ability.

"I think I'm more of a one, and I think J.R. is more of a two, three," Crawford said. "And I think he's a supreme athlete; I can't jump like that at all. He jumps out of the building, he'll hit tough shots. ... It's fun to watch him play. I think he's got a bright future."

Crawford, said he's "definitely" been watching the Knicks this season, and he's happy to see their success. With the same New York area code, he's still very connected to the experience he had in New York.

"I feel like I went from kind of a boy to a man in New York," he said. "I was there for four and a half years, so I still follow them for sure, and I'm happy that they mean a world to the city. I think the city has die-hard Knicks fans all over, so it's a proud time to be a Knicks fan and I'm happy for the organization."

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