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.
The Utah Jazz's Raja Bell finished in ninth place in the voting, with nine points.
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 that."
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 something."
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."
KNICKS DENIED: The New York Knicks are unable to beat the New Jersey Nets on the court — or off it. NBA commissioner David Stern denied a protest Friday filed by the Knicks, who claimed the clock stopped twice in the final 1:50 of their Game 3 loss on Thursday night. The league acknowledged the two stoppages occurred but determined neither was detrimental to New York, spokesman Brian McIntyre said.
FORD SURGERY: Milwaukee Bucks rookie point guard T.J. Ford has decided to undergo cervical spine surgery next month. The operation is scheduled for the first week of May. Ford, who has a history of back trouble, hasn't played in a game since he bruised his spinal cord Feb. 24 when he landed on his tailbone in a game against Minnesota.
SUNS SALE APPROVED: The owners of the Phoenix Suns formally approved the sale of the team Friday to a group headed by real estate and banking executive Robert Sarver. The $401 million sale faces final approval from the NBA Board of Governors but is expected to close June 30, the team said. Former NBA stars Charles Barkley and Sean Elliott are among about a dozen others who will own a share of the team.