Dwight Howard won Eastern Conference Player of the Month, beginning his campaign for NBA's MVP.
Yes, the season is all about winning the championship. The season is a "failure" without it. But Orlando fans are also seeing something really special developing down low (introducing a host of LeBron-induced fears that he may soon be departing).
But setting aside the future (for now), Howard has begun in earnest his campaign to be the league's MVP. Big men do not usually win this award. None have since Kevin Garnett in 2004 (or Dirk Nowitzki in 2007, depending on your definition of big men).
Early this season, Dwight Howard is on the short list of MVP contenders. Sure Kobe Bryant is still there. Up-and-comer Kevin Durant, the consensus pick in the preseason, has played well but not at the level he was last year. Derrick Rose has quietly raised his play to stratospheric levels.
So has Dwight Howard reached the top of the list of MVP candidates? Don't know.
What he has done is gained the early lead on one benchmark. Dwight Howard was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for November. So at the one-month pole, he is at least somewhere near the top.
Howard had plenty of highlights in November as he began to display his newfound post repertoire and a more measured, but also more dominating performance overall on both ends. His rebounding and blocks are down but his scoring is way up. He is on pace for his best scoring season of his career. Not only that, he has become much more consistent on the offensive end and shedding all the (mis)conceptions that he has no offensive game to speak of.
Howard has become that better player and is proving his doubters very very wrong.
Howard had a season-high 32 points against Washington including hitting the game-winner. The night before that he scored 23 points on nine shots. His nine points against Detroit from Tuesday broke a six-game streak of scoring at least 20 points. That is not something that has happened very often in Howard's career.
There has been plenty written about why Dwight Howard should be considered for the MVP in this space and others. He is not going to go away in this debate.
His 21.8 points per game was fifth in the conference, which does not sound terribly impressive, but he is not known for his scoring. It is safe to believe he will continue to score at a higher rate -- especially considering teams are defending him one on one and taking their chances with his offense rather than the Magic's 3-point shooting ability. Howard is making opponents pay for that.
There is still a long way to go. But Howard is very much in this race. And with Orlando at the top of the Eastern Conference again, Howard is going to make sure everyone knows it too.