MVP? Juwan Howard likes Derrick Rose

Miami Heat forward Juwan Howard did not take the easy way out Wednesday when asked if teammate LeBron James or Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose deserved the MVP nod at this point in the season.

"I'm not even being politically correct, normally guys say I'm giving it to LeBron, but honestly I'll give it to [Rose]," Howard said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "If he stays on this pace that he's on right now, he's got my vote if I was part of the committee."

Howard doesn't have a vote for the award, which is voted on by a select group of media, but the veteran does have a logical explanation for bypassing James.

"Derrick Rose has done a phenomenal job this year for his team, and I think if you take him off the Chicago Bulls team, I believe that team will be a below-average ballclub," Howard said. "If you take LeBron off our team, I think we'll still be an above-average ballclub, because we'll still have Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

"LeBron is having a phenomenal year. He's doing a lot of things for us and playing the same type of way he was playing in Cleveland, which is great."

James is averaging 26.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists for the Heat, who are 42-15 and tied with the Boston Celtics atop the Eastern Conference. Rose is averaging 24.9 points and 8.2 assists for the Bulls, who are 2½ games back at 38-16.

Rose appreciated the comments from his fellow Chicago native.

"Especially for a Chicagoan to say that, that means a lot," Rose said. "I looked up to Juwan when I was younger, especially when he was in the league and I was in high school and stuff, so it means a lot.

"But the season isn't over. We're just trying to win more games."

Miami visits the Bulls on Thursday, and the United Center crowd is likely to back Howard's sentiments with its now customary chant of "M-V-P" for Rose.

"I wish, man," Rose said when told many think he's a front-runner for the award. "I'm just trying to keep playing, man.

"I think if I win it will take care of everything. So just keep winning and keep playing hard and that's about it."

Howard also has been impressed with first-year Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was an assistant in Houston when Howard played for the Rockets.

"I've been impressed with this Bulls team since the summer, when the front office and Tom Thibodeau got together as a team and tried to do something special to try to build around D-Rose," Howard said. "And I think they did an excellent job adding a guy like Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer, as well as Keith Bogans and many others.

"And as you can see, the results have been positive. They have been playing some very good basketball, despite the injuries they've had to some of their key guys."

ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell contributed to this report.