DALLAS -- After five losing seasons in Golden State, Antawn Jamison was so excited about being on a winning team in Dallas that
he was willing to become a backup for the first time in his life.
His willingness to take on the job, and the way he excelled at
it, were rewarded Friday with the NBA's Sixth Man award.
"Good things do happen to people who are selfless and sacrifice
their game," Jamison said.
Jamison joined the Mavericks in August and spent the first half
of training camp working at forward alongside Dirk Nowitzki. Then
Dallas added Antoine Walker, leaving coach Don Nelson trying to fit
three quality players into two starting spots.
He went to Jamison first and asked whether he'd be willing to
come off the bench.
As a former college player of the year, the fourth overall pick
in 1998 and someone who'd scored 50 points in consecutive games --
plus the fact he arrived before Walker -- Jamison could've made a
good case to stay put, insisting that at 27 he was too young to
become a backup.
But he never hesitated or complained.
"If he wouldn't have accepted the role, I would've started
him," Nelson said. "It was really that simple. I would've had
another tough decision to make. But he accepted the role and made
my life very easy."
Jamison needed some time to get comfortable with entering games
late in the first quarter, but eventually flourished. He led the
team in scoring seven times and matched or outscored the opponent's
reserves in 17 games.
He averaged 14.8 points and 6.3 rebounds and played every game,
upping his current league-best streak to 328 in a row. He was most
excited by the team's 52 wins after never having won more than 38
with the Warriors.
Jamison's best trait was hanging around the rim, snatching
errant shots and finding ways to get the ball back into the basket.
It showed in his numbers, as he was the league's third
most-accurate shooter (a career-best 53.5 percent) and 13th in
offensive rebounds with 233, 2.8 a game.
"I've never seen a guy like him, able to score in the position
that he scores," Nelson said. "We marvel all the time about
In voting by sports writers and broadcasters, Jamison received
43 first-place votes and 388 points. Indiana Pacers forward Al
Harrington was second with 27 first-place votes and 275 points,
followed by San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili with 33
first-place votes and 244 points.
The recognition from the media was satisfying, but it doesn't
top what he heard throughout the season from rival players.
"Guys would come up to me right after a game say, 'Hey, you're
really doing something. Even though you're not in the situation you
wanted to be in, you're really contributing,'" Jamison said. "My
teammates and the coaching staff did a nice job of recognizing
that, but hearing your opponents say that was really gratifying."
The Mavericks trail Sacramento 0-2 in the first round. Jamison
hurt his back in Game 2, which caused both his hamstrings to
tighten, limiting him to 11 scoreless minutes. He expects to be
fine for Game 3 on Saturday night.
"I think the most important thing is to keep it loose," he
said. "When I sit down, I need to make sure I'm always doing
Jamison is the second Dallas player to win this award, joining
Roy Tarpley in 1988.
As for the trophy itself, Jamison hopes to keep it at his house,
something he hasn't done with the other prizes he's earned since he
was a high school star in North Carolina and a college standout for
the Tar Heels.
"My mother and father have the rest of them and they're coming
in town this weekend," Jamison said, "so I think it'll (end up)
on their mantelpiece."