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Kevin McHale, who coaches Dwight Howard, says Joakim Noah is the Defensive Player of the Year

Mar 13, 2014, 7:03 PM EDT

Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers Getty Images

The Rockets are in Chicago to face the Bulls in a nationally televised contest on Thursday, and Houston head coach Kevin McHale paid the highest of compliments to the best active player on the opposing team, Joakim Noah.

That part wasn’t unusual, as head coaches will often times dole out honest and well-deserved praise to All-Stars around the league. But in this particular instance, McHale’s remarks seemed to diminish the contributions of one of his own players, if only slightly.

From ESPN Chicago:

Kevin McHale said Thursday that Bulls center Joakim Noah should win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year Award based on his performance this season.

The Houston Rockets coach knows a special defensive big man when he sees one. He was one himself, being selected multiple times to the NBA all-defense team. He has also coached two previous award winners in Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard. …

“He’s played very well,” McHale said after his team’s shootaround at Moody Bible Institute. “He should be defensive player of the year. He’s done a great job with these guys. They’ve been winning a lot just on his energy and effort, his kind of determination and toughness. Those are all qualities everybody appreciates.”

McHale is a member of the Hall of Fame and one of the more savvy coaches out there in terms of being able to relate to his players. But the Rockets are ninth in the league in defensive efficiency this season, up from 16th a year ago — and James Harden certainly isn’t the reason why.

This is likely nothing more than a motivational tactic to make sure Howard brings it against a competitor as fiery as Noah tends to be.

  1. blackman24 - Mar 13, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    Not a Dwight fan, but the Rockets Defense would be nowhere in the top 10 without him this year, good job Mchale not recognizing what Dwight has brought to your team.

    • antistratfordian - Mar 13, 2014 at 8:23 PM

      McHale motivation. Jedi mind tricks.

    • 00maltliquor - Mar 13, 2014 at 11:48 PM

      IDK man, I call BS on that one. They would still have Asik starting with Parsons defending the wings and Beverley manhandling the points.

    • ProBasketballPundit - Mar 14, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      The Rockets defense isn’t in the top 10, dumbass. They’re 12th.

  2. spthegr8 - Mar 13, 2014 at 7:48 PM

    McHale is just keeping it 100%!!

  3. azarkhan - Mar 13, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    I appreciate Kevin McHale’s honesty. Nothing against Dwight Howard, but Joakim Noah has played outstanding all year on a team that has been depleted by injuries and trades.

  4. fordmandalay - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    After hearing this, Howard got all fired up and said ‘Okay’, then was motivated to go out and get a Subway sammich.

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 13, 2014 at 11:42 PM

      uh, it was a peanut butter and jelly sammich… and it came after his nap and while he was watching cartoons…

  5. lj312chicago - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    Daaaa Bulls

  6. mytthor - Mar 14, 2014 at 2:16 AM

    This is the absolute wrong way to motivate Dwight. He’s more likely to pout about it then actually react positively.

  7. notinmyhouse56 - Mar 14, 2014 at 2:56 AM

    Well, I guess Dwight does not give a heck about competing for anything… As long as he is rich and everybody around love him, he does not care about anything

  8. JMClarkent - Mar 14, 2014 at 6:13 AM

    After watching the game, the result is an effort that would be less than impressive for Sam Dalembert. Howard isn’t a fan of pressure.

  9. chitownmatt - Mar 14, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    ….well that motivational thing didn’t work.

  10. billtetley53 - Mar 14, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    As suspected, about 85% butt hurt lakers fans in the comments.

    You guys really need to let it go.

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