Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (center) pulls down a rebound between Portland Trail Blazers forward Victor Claver (left) and center Meyers Leonard (right) during the second half at the United Center. Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.
CHICAGO - Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, the mainstay of a team that kept foes to a league-low 91.8 points a game, was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Monday.
The son of French tennis legend Yannick Noah and former Miss Sweden Cecilia Rodhe averaged 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocked shots and 1.2 steals a game for the Bulls this season.
Noah, 29, became the first Bulls player to win the award since Michael Jordan in 1988.
"This is very humbling to be in this situation right now," Noah said. "I never thought I would be in this positoion right now. I just kept working."
The Bulls are in the first round of the NBA playoffs, having lost their opener to the Washington Wizards, and Noah stressed he owes the honor to the work of his team-mates as well as himself.
"This award is not about me. This is about our team. This is a team award," Noah said.
When the Bulls lost star playmaker Derrick Rose to injury early in the season after he missed all of last season and later traded away British star Luol Deng, Chicago stressed defensive work and Noah set the tone for the team.
"Through all the adversity we went though, we kept fighting. That's something I will never forget," Noah said. "It means more than awards.
"This game is not about awards. It's about winning. These awards are great but they are not why I play the game."
Noah said he owes much of his work ethic to his father and watching his determination on the tennis court.
"I watched the way my father worked as a tennis player and subconsciously it taught me work ethic," Noah said.
"There are so many distractions out there. You just have to stay focused on your craft. You have to stay focused on your belief in yourself."
Noah received 555 of a possible 1,125 points, including 100 first-place votes from a media panel, to defeat runner-up Roy Hibbert of Indiana, who had 166 points and eight first-place votes. The Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan was third on 121 points with eight first-place votes.
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