Dwight Howard was the three-time defending NBA Defensive Player of the Year going into last season.
But there was no four-peat. Howard had a messy off-the-court season in Orlando that he should want to forget, plus he finished the season injured. Tyson Chandler won the award for his fantastic play in the paint that turned the woeful Knicks defensive into the fifth best in the league. Howard finished third in the voting, behind Serge Ibaka of the Thunder, but ahead of LeBron James and Kevin Garnett.
Howard thinks he was robbed. He thinks he deserved it last year and it was how people felt about him leaving Orlando that played a role in him not winning, he told ESPNLA.com.
“I thought I should have won it last year, to be honest with you,” Howard told reporters after practice Monday. “I was a little bit upset about that….
“I felt like I did my job to win it. I also feel like I didn’t because of the whole situation,” Howard said, referring to the uncertainty surrounding his future with the Magic and the distraction it became. “That played a factor in it.”
I don’t think Howard is totally wrong, people not liking his situation played a role, but it is more than just that.
There was the fact that while he played well (2.1 blocks per game, league best 14.5 rebounds per game) the Magic defense was not as good, slipping to 13th in the league in points allowed per possession (tied with the Lakers). There was the fact he missed the end of the season injured. There was the fact he’d won it three years running and when anybody wins an award that often voters tend to get fatigue and look elsewhere. Finally, there was the fact Chandler had a great defensive season as the anchor of a defense that had been terrible and became good. Plus, Chandler did that in New York, on a bright stage where everybody saw it.
Howard is on a big, bright stage now with a Lakers team that had a pretty average defense last season. Talk to people around the team and they think it is Howard’s defense that is the biggest change he brings to this team.
Howard says he wants his award back, he wants to win a fourth DPOY. That would tie him with Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo for most in a career with four. If he can cover up some of Steve Nash’s defense at the point he deserves to be in the mix.