James’ latest honor shows he is MVP material

If the NBA’s Player of the Week awards are any indication, then LeBron James would appear to be a clear front-runner for Most Valuable Player.

Monday, shortly before the Heat defeated the visiting New Orleans Hornets 109-95 at AmericanAirlines Arena, James was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the third time during the season’s opening five weeks.

It marks the 34th time James has earned Player of the Week over his career, the most times a player has earned the honors in NBA history. It also marks the 36th time in the franchise’s 24 seasons a Heat player has earned Player of the Week and the eighth time James has earned the honor in his one season and one month as a member of the Heat.

James, whose team next faces the Bucks in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, led the Heat to a 4-0 record during the measuring period, which ended Sunday, averaging 29 points, 7.5 rebounds, six assists and one steal in 40.3 minutes while shooting 48.8 percent (40 of 82) from the field.

He recorded one double-double while leading the team in scoring, assists and minutes in three games and in rebounds and steals once each.

Along the way, he recorded his 500th point of the season in his 18th game of the season, tying the franchise record for fewest games to reach the 500-point mark during a single season.

To James, the honor stood as somewhat of an affirmation of his overall solid play, at a time some have questioned the way he has finished games, including an uneven close to Sunday’s victory over the Bulls.

“I think that’s a problem with our league sometimes, people just evaluate the last minute of games and forget that this is a complete 48-minute game,” he said. “But we understand it. We understand what makes the headlines.”

At the time of his honor, James ranked second in scoring (29.5), third in field-goal percentage (.547), sixth in minutes (37.8), 11th in steals (1.84), 15th in assists (7.0) and tied for 26th in rebounds (8.2).

For James, the honor culminated a whirlwind week that included biking to Sunday’s home game against the Bulls to avoid traffic from the Miami Marathon and then jumping over Chicago’s John Lucas III for a first-period dunk in that victory.

Monday, he picked up where he left off the previous week, with 22 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a 109-95 victory over the Hornets. He missed a triple-double only by the magnitude of the rout.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said he was unaware of the triple-double possibility.

“I didn’t know,” Spoelstra said of James’ numbers. “I was thinking about throwing him back in and throwing Dwyane (Wade) back in, but we made a little bit of a push, decided to run it out and think big picture.”

James, who was limited to 30 minutes, was fine with that.

“You want me to be honest,” he said with a smirk. “I’d rather take the 12 (minutes rest).