- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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WASHINGTON -- This season's MVP debate is settled as far as LeBron James is concerned.
"I think [it's] Derrick Rose," James said before the Heat's game Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards. "What he's done for that team, with all the injuries they have and them being first in the Eastern Conference -- they're playing some really good basketball."
Rose said he was surprised to get LeBron's vote.
"Yeah ... I'm speechless right now to tell you the truth," Rose said.
Rose, however, also said the MVP race isn't his main concern right now.
"It means a lot, especially coming from a player like him, that won it two years in a row and could win it every year," Rose said. "But right now, my focus is on just winning games. Trying to get better towards the end of this season, and we're trying to be a 48 minute team."
James was named MVP each of the past two seasons but has said throughout this season that his chances to win a third time would be tarnished by his move to the Miami Heat to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. James reiterated that notion Wednesday night.
Rose is averaging 25 points, 7.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Bulls (53-20), who entered Wednesday with a two-game lead over Boston and 2½ games ahead of Miami atop the East standings.
"I'm just trying to drive them," Rose said of his team. "I'm trying to get better in becoming a leader, being more vocal, but I'm coming along with that. My teammates have been helping me out, the veterans have been talking to me, just talking a little bit more in practice. But if anything, I try to lead by example."
Meanwhile, James is averaging 26.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists for the Heat. He is also shooting a career-high 50.4 percent from the field this season.
James believes his production is strong enough to validate a third consecutive MVP trophy. But he also said Rose seems to be garnering more support among the media block that votes on the award. In addition to Rose and James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Dirk Nowitzki are considered the top candidates for MVP this season.
"Right now, statistically, it's probably one of the best years I've had," James said. "But we'll see. The media kind of controls it. You've got some guys here that have done their job also. At one point, I thought Dirk was also [worthy] until he got hurt. But Derrick Rose definitely has gotten a lot of the exposure and a lot of the media attention because of the work he's done. He's playing some unbelievable basketball."
Michael Wallace covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Information from ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell was used in this report.
8dEthan Sherwood Strauss