Dwight Howard, Magic Hitting Stride Quicker Than Most
After Howard's showing in Wednesday night's exhibition game against the Dallas Mavericks, it's easy to see why. Veteran teammate Rashard Lewis, after 12 seasons in the league, doesn't normally get excited by practice games, but even he took notice Wednesday night.
"Dwight looks like he's headed for an MVP season,'' Lewis said after Howard led the Magic to a 101-76 win against the Mavericks. "He might take home two of those trophies this season, the Defensive Player, and the MVP.''
Howard played 29 minutes Wednesday night, hitting all seven of his shots, getting 20 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. While Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki just went through the motions, getting five points and seven rebounds, Howard played like he was in regular-season form.
"I just want to win a championship. That's our only goal,'' he said. "I'm not going to talk about myself. We just go out every night trying to get better.''
They certainly have showed their seriousness -- and Howard's focus -- during the exhibition schedule, winning all seven starts by an average of 25.0 points.
"You can say, it's just the exhibition season, but this is meaningful, what they've done,'' said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. "When you're averaging 25-point wins against NBA competition, that's a legit title contender. They're good.''
Howard, the best center in the NBA, has led the league in both rebounding and blocks each of the last two years, earning him back-to-back Defensive Player of Year awards. He finished fourth last season in the MVP balloting.
"There's no reason Dwight Howard shouldn't win Defensive Player of the Year for several years,'' said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "There's really not a whole lot he can't do defensively.''
Lewis is one of those who believes that Howard's time for the MVP has come also, especially if the Magic stay ahead of the Heat and the Celtics as they expect.
"I have a good feeling about this season,'' Lewis said. "And that starts with Dwight. He's definitely going to be among the top three (for the MVP). And if we win, he'll be right there.''