Rashard Lewis ready for reunion with Orlando
Rashard Lewis was understandably shaken when he got the phone call that he had been dealt from Orlando to Washington. He knew that teams in contention are always looking for ways to improve, but he had no idea that the Magic would swing a huge deal two months before the trade deadline. And, he certainly didn't expect to be shipped to a rebuilding situation.
"The day I got traded, I think I just sat there in a daze, just thinking to myself," Lewis said. "My girl was trying to comfort me. People was calling, trying to comfort me, telling me everything is going to be okay. But at a time like that, you don't want to talk to people or get babied. You need time to yourself to kind of sit back to yourself and think about what's going on, the type of situation you're stepping into and how you're going to approach it."
Lewis said playing around with his young children, Gianna and Rashard Jr., helped him get through his challenging afternoon. The next day, Lewis decided that there were two ways to handle joining the Wizards.
"Either you're going to make it work or you're going to be a [jerk] and go there with a negative attitude," Lewis said. It's a little tough, coming from a team that competed for a championship to a team that's rebuilding. It's more mental than anything. I didn't want to come with a negative attitude, like I don't want to play because of the fact that we're not going to be competing for an NBA championship, my focus was to come in with my head up and remain positive."
Nearly seven weeks later, Lewis will have a reunion on Friday with the Magic, as he welcomes his former teammates to his new home. Lewis already faced some of his former teammates when Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus came with Phoenix two weeks ago, but he said it'll be a little bit different "playing against that blue jersey."
Lewis remains in contact with some of his former teammates and coaches. He is constant communication with Jameer Nelson, has traded text messages with J.J. Redick and Patrick Ewing, and spoke recently with Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy. Lewis said he would have some nerves going into the game, but while those feelings should temper once the ball goes up, his desire to win will not. "I think, I don't know, you're going to automatically play with that extra energy. When you play against an old team, or an old teammate or an old friend, you are going to definitely try to beat them."
Coach Flip Saunders said Lewis would be motivated against the Magic but doesn't expect him to go overboard. "He's going to give us the scouting report," Saunders joked. "I think it's an advantage. It'd be one if you had a guy who was super duper emotional, like say a [Kevin] Garnett. I'm sure when he went back to Minnesota, his hands were shaking, he was so fired up. Rashard is pretty level headed. Is he going to want to play well? No question, because he's competitive."
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said he has been pleased with Lewis's contributions to the team. "He's a very solid professional person. He leads by example. Always puts his work in. he's on time, a quality person and he cares about winning and losing. When you have a player like John, you do need other players that can stretch the defense for him. We felt like he'd be a good fit for us and we felt like it would give Nick [Young] more of an opportunity to play in our backcourt. We added a player in the frontcourt who is versatile and can complement other players."
When Lewis left Seattle to sign with Orlando as a free agent in the summer of 2007, he was supposed to be a perimeter threat to complement Howard and form a one-two punch with the emerging big man. The Magic even gave him a gaudy, $118-million contract to secure his services. He helped Orlando reach the Finals in 2009, but as his tenure in Orlando continued, Lewis slowly became one-dimensional.
Problem was, Lewis wasn't hitting shots this season and teams no longer worried about leaving him to double-team Howard. The Magic had no choice but to deal him, with his disappointing play standing in the way of opportunities for Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson.
Lewis's days of being a high scorer are behind him, but he is showing a more well-rounded game with the Wizards. He's averaging nearly two points better than he did in Orlando -- 13.8 points, compared to 12.2. But he is shooting 46.6 percent and adding 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists. "In Orlando, I was more of a spread the floor guy, pass the ball down in the post to Dwight. It's the way our system was ran -- and it worked," Lewis said. "But I'm trying to get back to the way I was in Seattle, to being aggressive, attacking, getting to the basket, [getting] offensive rebounds, a lot of different things that I wasn't doing in Orlando."
During its playoff runs the past seasons, the Magic had a group of players that got along well, with Nelson and Dwight Howard leading the peanut gallery, constantly cracking jokes on each other. "We had great chemistry on that team," Lewis said. "We played well on the court, but we had good chemistry off the court as well. We was able to accept criticism from one another. You could jump on one guy and he not take it personal and you know he don't mean nothing by it, we just trying to get better as a team and you know chemistry goes a long way, and basketball teams when you've got good chemistry it helps on the court."
Lewis said the Wizards are starting to develop more familiarity with each, but the team faces several challenges as it tries to win games. "The difference is [in Orlando], we was veterans, had a lot of guys who have been to the playoffs, been to the Finals, and played in the league for a while. We had different voices, had that veteran leadership. Here, we're a pretty young team. Our main guy, John Wall, is a rookie, and we have a lot of rookies on the team. Nick Young is young. We've got to mature. Every night we get on the court, we've got to get better. We can't make the same mistakes."
| February 4, 2011; 12:13 PM ET
Categories: Flip Saunders, Rashard Lewis
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