Los Angeles Lakers: Defensive Player of the Year
No question, some nerves were settled by the debut of Dwight Howard, whose mere presence provided glimpses of the high ceiling possessed by these Lakers. But as with any player returning from injury, there's always fear of setbacks. And in a game in which Steve Nash and Metta World Peace also suffered injuries (a sore ankle and a dislocated right middle finger, respectively), those concerns are compounded.
Well, so far so good.
Howard told reporters of notable soreness, but those aches are a part of the process. The center was told his body would react this way, and treatment was part of today's agenda. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary. For that matter, Nash and MWP practiced -- albeit in a session with no heavy contact -- and neither is expected to miss any games. The same can be said for Kobe Bryant, who skipped today's workout with a strained right foot. The injury took place during Sunday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings, but nobody seemed particularly nervous about an extended absence. Mike Brown confirmed that Jordan Hill is close to a return.
The benefits to having all hands on deck extend beyond just the roster's collective strength. It allows Brown to finally develop an informed opinion for a desired rotation. Between the third-stringers he's been forced to give obligatory looks and some key players being absent, the coach hasn't been able to utilize players as envisioned. And the results have been obvious, especially with the reserves on the floor.
- Beyond the titles, what is the most impressive aspect of Kobe's career?
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Check out what we said, then offer your two cents.
Eleventh constitutes a "reputation" result for Kobe, who no longer guards the other team's best player nor locks down his man with consistency over an 82-game regular season (nor, frankly, would you want him to at this point in his career -- best to save the energy for key moments and the postseason).
And while he didn't deserve to win, 18th is too low for Artest, who now carries much of the defensive burden for Bryant and in one-on-one situations is still an outstanding perimeter defender, capable of altering games. Monday, we asked Artest for his opinion on the voting. While sticking up for his own resume, Artest quickly made peace with the outcome in his own way.
"Those coaches know why they put me in screen and rolls. They don't want too many isos with their best players [against me]," he said. "That's why a lot of coaches don't have jobs, and a lot of coaches are gonna be fired. Because the coaches pick, right?"
Nope. It's the media.
"Media pick? Wow."
Oh well. Water off a duck's back. "It's bad judgment," he said of his ranking, "but that's OK. Nobody's perfect."
In a landslide, Orlando's Dwight Howard won his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award, trailed in the voting by, in order, Josh Smith, Gerald Wallace, LeBron Somethingorother (a real up-and-comer, I hear), and Rajon Rondo. Artest was next, a scant 547 points behind Howard in the voting.
Kobe Bryant, for the record, finished 12th.
Given the award is (or at least should) be reflective of a season's worth of defensive impact, I certainly wouldn't argue with Howard winning the award. Whether Artest should have been ahead of Smith, Wallace, James, or Rondo is, to be perfectly honest, hard to say. I saw 77 games worth of Ron this year, far more than any of the other guys. It's hard to compare. (This, by the way, gets to a larger problem with DPOY voting; Given how hard it is to quantify defense statistically, it puts an extra premium on taking in more game action than most writers can reasonably put in. Reputation, then, can play far too large a role in the results.)
But there is a reasonable question to be asked here. Were you pleased with Artest's defense this season? This is no empty query. You can vote on it below. As always, your comments are welcome.