Lakers center Dwight Howard is a little defensive about award

SAN ANTONIO — The Lakers didn’t have a great regular season. They’re also lagging in awards attention.

Dwight Howard was 14th in the voting for defensive player of the year, receiving one first-place vote and four third-place votes.

Howard seemed surprised, if not mildly irritated, to finish that far behind. Memphis center Marc Gasol won the award, which was announced Wednesday by the league.

“That’s funny,” Howard said of his distant finish. “That’s OK. We’ve got next year and I’ve got a long time. But this year is funny.


“I didn’t vote, so I don’t know what to do about it. But it’s OK. I think everybody knows why I didn’t win or why I didn’t get any votes.”

Howard was slowed earlier this season while recovering from back surgery. He also missed six games because of a torn labrum in his shoulder.

Still, Howard led the league in rebounding (12.4 a game) and was fifth in blocked shots (2.45).

He is familiar with the award, becoming the first player to win it three consecutive times (2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11).

Miami’s LeBron James was second in the voting this season, followed by Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Joakim Noah. Players who also finished ahead of Howard included the Clippers’ Chris Paul (11th) and Boston’s Avery Bradley (12th).

Howard said he would have voted for Ibaka because of “the stuff he’s doing on the defensive end. I thought he was the clear-cut winner.”

Hill returns

Jordan Hill was cleared to play Wednesday against San Antonio, a somewhat surprising development because the Lakers initially said he would be sidelined the entire season after undergoing hip surgery in January.

The team even applied for a disabled-player exception to sign another player and was granted the opportunity by the NBA. The Lakers never used the exception before it expired last month.

Hill hadn’t played since Jan. 6 and was averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.

So what had he been doing the last few months?

“Well, his car got out of control a little bit,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said.

A Bentley registered under Hill’s name crashed into a Marina del Rey condo complex last month. Hill was not in the car, but a friend was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

Brown’s new job

Mike Brown was fired by the Lakers after a 1-4 start this season but was rehired to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers, agreeing to a five-year, $20-million contract Wednesday.

“I’m happy for him,” Pau Gasol said. “Mike is a really good coach. He’s going to help Cleveland be a better team. They have a young team. Mike is a hard-working coach, very dedicated, pays attention to detail.”