Magic Amused by Miami's Defensive Player of the Year Talk
Magic center Dwight Howard has won the award the last two seasons, but the Heat crushed the Magic last week in Miami with an impressive performance.
"He (James) is the Defensive Player of the Year after five games? Wow. I would say that's a quick rise to prominence defensively,'' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said sarcastically after Wednesday morning's Magic practice. "Nothing surprises me. I just didn't realize we were going to start the campaign this early. ''
When asked about Howard during the preseason, Van Gundy had said that he expects him to win the award every year.
"I still think that,'' he said Wednesday. "We'll see.''
The mini-debate stemmed from comments made Tuesday by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra , who mentioned the award when discussing the defensive prowess of James.
"The reality is we added a first-team, all-defensive player in LeBron James,'' Spoelstra said during his pregame news conference Tuesday. "He has already proven himself on that side of the floor. He is capable, and hopefully will be considered for Defensive Player of the Year if he has the year we anticipate.''
Both James and Howard have been first-team All Defense each of the last two seasons. Howard has led the league in both blocked shots and rebounding those two season. James is considered one of the league's premier perimeter defenders, capable of smothering opponents in the open court.
"Dwight is still the Defensive Player of the Year,'' said Magic point guard Jameer Nelson when asked about James replacing Howard. "Someone will have to take that away from him. It's like the Lakers are still champs until someone takes their title away. And that hasn't happened yet.''
James already is the two-time defending Most Valuable Player, raising his visibility even more with his well-chronicled move to Miami.
The Heat are going into Wednesday night as the NBA's top-rated defense, allowing just 84 points per game. James has been leading that charge alongside teammate Dwyane Wade. The Magic are ranked third defensively, leaning heavily on Howard.
"He (James) should be a candidate,'' said Magic general manager Otis Smith. "And so should Kobe, Wade and all the really great players in the league. It (defense) just needs to be a priority with them. Dwight has made it a priority.''