Gordon first rookie to win award
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."
"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," Gordon said.
"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 taller defenders.
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 happens."
Gordon is the second Bulls player to win the Sixth Man Award. Toni Kukoc captured it for the 1995-96 season.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press