"LeBron James smiled Tuesday and explained he was content with being voted the second-best defender in the NBA, even if his second-place showing was distant to 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard.
Because just think - this is the first year James really tried.
Not that James never played defense before, but the Cavaliers swingman said his main off-season goal last year was to improve defensively. He learned the Cavaliers' defensive schemes inside and out, worked on footwork and angles and perfected his patented "chase-down block" maneuver. He simply began to care more.
"It means more to me now at this point in my career than it did in the past," he said. "I'm not saying I didn't care about defense. It just means a lot more to me. I care as much about defense as I do about offense."
Howard, the Orlando Magic center, was the runaway winner with 105 first-place votes to James' four. James' received 36 second-place votes and 20 third-place votes on the media ballots, earning him the highest finish for the award for a Cavaliers player. Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao earned one second-place vote in the final tally.
James led Cleveland with 137 steals and a career-high 93 blocks, which also led the team. The Cavaliers even created a new statistic for James - the chase-down block - for the impressive move in which he blocks a player who has eluded the rest of the defense and seems destined to score. James had 23 chase-down blocks in the regular season.
"That's a spectacular play," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "I don't know who else in the league does it. You have to be recognized for it. For him to be able to do that is extraordinary."
James admitted there has been added effort this year simply because he has made defense a priority, buying into the system that Brown has preached since he arrived in Cleveland."
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