Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has won his first NBA Defensive Player of the Year award after anchoring the league’s stingiest defense.
The NBA announced Wednesday that Gasol received 212 points and 30 first-place votes. The 28-year-old Gasol becomes the first Grizzlies player to earn defensive player honors.
The 7-foot-1 Spaniard averaged 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals for a Memphis defense that allowed a league-low 88.7 points per game.
“I’m the first European ever to accomplish this,” Gasol said Wednesday at a news conference held in the lobby of the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn. “It’s really an honor. Now I think my kids will believe me when I tell them I played in the NBA.”
The Grizzlies were 6.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Gasol was on the floor, and were considerably more effective on the defensive glass.
The Grizzlies as a whole ranked second in the NBA during the regular season in defensive efficiency, and Gasol was eager to credit teammates as he accepted the award.
“I look at it as the whole team got acknowledged,” Gasol said. “I think it’s a team effort. It’s a team game. There’s no way around it. That’s how we play basketball. We play as a unit. Defensively, you need five guys to play defense. If one of us is not playing defense, we can’t do it.”
Tony Allen knows his defense as well, having been named to the NBA’s All-Defensive first team last season, and praised his teammate for being honored this year.
“That’s my man. That’s my man, Marc Gasol. I’d rather him get it than anyone else,” Allen said. “If somebody else had gotten Defensive Player of the Year, I would have been highly upset. It just goes to show you how much the Memphis Grizzlies have grown on the defensive end.”
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins echoed Allen’s congratulations as the team prepares for Thursday night’s Game 3 of its Western Conference first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It’s a great honor,” Hollins said. “Marc’s played well. There are a lot of other guys who are worthy, but they saw fit to give Marc the award and he was deserving.”
Lakers forward Pau Gasol said he’s proud of his younger brother’s achievement.
“It’s great. I texted him and told him I’m proud,” Pau said. “I’m proud of him. It’s a great award to receive. Great recognition, a great accomplishment for him and I’m just very proud of what he’s been able to do and who he has become as a player and as a person. So, I’m a proud big brother.”
“He gets it done. He gets it done on both ends of the floor. He’s such a great anchor to their team on both ends of the floor, but on the defensive end, he’s just gets a lot of deflections, a lot of steals, gets blocks. Just makes critical defensive plays and helps them be the defensive team that they are.”
Miami’s LeBron James, who had 149 points and 18 first-place votes, finished second. Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka was third with 122 points and 14 first-place votes.
Lakers center Dwight Howard, a former Defensive Player of the Year himself, took issue with the voting saying he thought it was “funny” how the voting shook out with his teammate’s brother being named DPOY.
“That’s funny. It’s just funny. That’s OK. We got next year and I got a long time. But, this year is funny,” Howard said.
Howard finished 14th in voting, and when asked to explain why he was hardly a consideration, he said, “I didn’t vote, so I don’t know what to do about it. But, it’s OK.”
Howard did, however, take up the cause of third-place finisher Ibaka.
“I think Serge Ibaka with all the stuff he did this year, I think he should have been the guy to win it this year and last year, for the stuff he’s done on the defensive end,” Howard said. “I thought he was the clear-cut winner, but people saw it other ways.
“He led the league in blocks. That’s what defense is all about. I think their team was No. 1 in blocks this year. You can’t play defense without having any shot blockers. He was the No. 1 shot blocker the last two years. I think that’s great defense right there.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made a late plea in support of his star, who finished second.
“I would like to see him one day achieve the Defensive Player of the Year,” Spoelstra said of James. “I think he’s deserving every year.”
In Miami on Wednesday, Spoelstra added: “Possibly in the eyes of other people, maybe they take him for granted, his impact defensively. He guards [positions] 1 through 5 every single night and he knows it and accepts that challenge. In the fourth quarter, whoever the biggest threat is, that’s who he’s guarding.”