DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Ben Gordon expected to be a starter after
the Chicago Bulls took him at No. 3 in last year's draft. When that
didn't work out, he became the first rookie to win the NBA's Sixth
Man of the Year Award.
Actually, Gordon did start for Chicago -- for the first three
games of the Bulls' 0-9 start.
"The way I was playing I didn't deserve to be starting. That
kind of humbled me right there. I realized I had to find my niche
and get in my groove somehow," Gordon said Tuesday.
"The way coach [Scott] Skiles prepared me this year helped me a
lot. It made me earn everything I've gotten."
Gordon averaged 15.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists in
just over 24 minutes this season. He came off the bench in 79 of 82
games and helped the Bulls make their first playoff appearance
since 1998, when Michael Jordan led them to their sixth title.
"We would not have won 47 games without the things Ben did in
the fourth quarter," general manager John Paxson said Tuesday.
"I think people recognized that around the league. That's why
he basically ran away with it."
Gordon received 88 of 125 first-place votes and 513 points from
a panel of media members. Boston guard Ricky Davis was second with
257 points, and Denver guard Earl Boykins was third with 155.
"I didn't know what was going to happen or whatever. It's great
to come off the bench and still help my team the way I did,"
"Once I got around the team and everything like that, I pretty
much accepted my role. Especially after the slow start, I was not
really thinking about starting, I was thinking about how can I help
my team get the first win."
Gordon scored in double figures 21 times during the fourth
quarter, instantly heating up Chicago's offense on numerous
occasions with an uncanny streak of long-range shooting or with
drives to the basket punctuated with a high-arching shot over
In a game against Charlotte on March 30, the former Connecticut
star scored 22 of his 35 points in the final period.
His award Tuesday came one day after he shot just 1-for-13 in
the Bulls' 106-90 loss to the Washington Wizards in a game that
evened their playoff series at 2-2.
In Game 1, Gordon scored 30 points. Now he's trying to find his
range again against tougher defense from the Wizards.
"Ben had a very unique year. He's had some unbelievable 8- and
10-minute stretches that would be very hard for any other player in
the league to duplicate," Skiles said.
"What we keep striving for is consistency and longer minutes.
You catch flashes of his talent and it's very impressive.
"When you look at Ben's season honestly, there have been ups
and downs to it and significant ones. And that happens with
rookies. That's what's real. He's been brilliant in a lot of
moments and there have been moments where he's struggled. That
Gordon is the second Bulls player to win the Sixth Man Award.
Toni Kukoc captured it for the 1995-96 season.