NBA AM: Rashard Lewis Is Just Trying To Lead
First To Worst: Wizards’ forward Rashard Lewis heard all of the reports this summer. The NBA was bringing back Amnesty cuts and he’d be one of the guys cut. Lewis prepared himself for the idea of being a free agent. He was ready to choose his next team, however Washington did not opt to use their Amnesty cut on Lewis, and Rashard finds himself on the only winless team in the NBA. A team that’s desperate for a win. Any win, to turn things around on this compressed 66-game season.
“I think it can be one win,” Lewis said of what could turn the tide for his winless Wizards. “But that win is going to come off of playing the right way, like I thought we played the Boston game. We played together on the defensive end and on the offensive end and we almost won that game.”
“When you can do that and when you get that taste of winning it’s a good feeling. Everybody’s happy after the game. You’re excited and you’re looking forward to the next game to go out there. It boosts everybody’s confidence up. I think once you get that confidence booster then we can most definitely be a lot better team.”
The Wizards are struggling with their own demons. They are a young team filled with guys playing for themselves. Guys that are trying to be the hero and rescue the team or guys that are trying to establish themselves as players in the NBA. A few of those guys are fighting for new contracts.
So it’s the perfect storm of selfish “me-first” basketball.
The problem is none of them seem to be fighting for each other and that’s typical with a roster like the Wizards.
“[We’re] a young team,” agreed Lewis. “But [we have] a lot of talent. [We’re a] very long athletic team. Chris Singleton’s a rookie but he’s a good defender. Jan hasn’t played very much but you can tell he has a lot of talent. I think it all starts with John Wall he’s so talented, but you’ve got to continue to learn how to play the game and it’s a lot of room for improvement with this team because like you said we’re just very very young.”
With so much youth and talent the Wizards opted to hang on to Lewis, who is owed $21.1 million this season and has $15 million of his $22.69 million guaranteed next season.
The Wizards also added veteran leaders to try and teach the young guys what it takes to be professionals in the NBA.
Lewis understands that as the elder statesman in the locker-room he has to speak up.
“Not only myself,” said Lewis. “But Roger Mason and Maurice Evans we’ve been doing a good job policing these guys in the locker room as well as in practice and on the court.”
“Just continue to talk to these guys even after every ball game and even at shoot-around. It’s a lot of little things I think the veterans have to do to teach these guys how to play the game. You know we’ve got a lot of talent and I think it’s not only coaches’ job to help these guys, but I think it’s some of the veterans’ job too.”
Lewis had tremendous success playing in Orlando; getting deep into the playoffs virtually every year, while getting an All-Star nod and a trip to the NBA Finals for his efforts.
Lewis learned early in the process with Orlando, that sometimes less is more as a player, and it’s something he is trying to get his young guys in Washington to understand.
“That’s what we’re trying to tell these guys,” explained Lewis. “It’s not all about stats or individual talent. When you’re playing together and you’re winning ball games everybody’s happy.”
“Everybody gets a piece of the pie from the first guy to the last guy that doesn’t even get in the game to the coaching staff and the whole organization.”
“When you have a winning team and a winning organization it trickles down to everybody it’s not just that one guy. Of course you’ll have your all-stars on the team or your best players on the team, but when you’re winning ballgames it seems like everybody has a way of either getting a new deal or going to another team getting a contract. It just seems like when you win it’s a good feeling overall for everybody not just the two guys that are helping us win ballgames.”
Lewis understands that his contract size will keep him in Washington, so he isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. It also means in order for things to change, they have to change from within in Washington.
“Just have to continue to improve every day,” said Lewis. “Keep these guys hungry for wins. It’s not just about going out there trying to make highlights to be on Sportscenter. When you’re winning ballgames you’re going to be on Sportscenter as a team and not as an individual.”
Lewis also understands that winning in Washington will start with second year standout John Wall.
Lewis and Wall spent a lot of time together during the off-season and the NBA lockout, and Rashard says he tries to balance being the big brother for John with being a friend.
“I’m always in his ear,” explained Lewis. “I try to back up off him a little bit because he is still young, but he doesn’t know how much talent he has in this league. He can be one of the best point guards in this league if he continues to work on his game. It all comes with hard work.”
“It’s not going to just happen. I know he’s talented, but watching other guys. Veteran point guards and I told him ‘watch how Rondo plays’. Sometimes he plays by just getting his team into the offense. Getting passes and hustle, you know little steals or rebounds. He takes what the defense gives to him and you can take points from every point guard in the league and watching those guys like Rondo play.”
The Wizards next five games include three home games starting with the Knicks tomorrow. The Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, along with Toronto next Tuesday. The club heads back out on the road to face Chicago on the 11th and the Philadelphia 76ers on the 13th.
If the Wizards can’t pull out a win in that span, it is easy to believe head coach Flip Saunders will be replaced. However removing the coach may not solve the problem, because the problem is that the Wizards are a young team, and in the NBA it’s hard to win with young guy trying to establish their own place in the league.
Honesty and Basketball Do Not Mix: The hardest thing to come to grips with in professional basketball is the casual relationship teams and executives in the NBA have with the truth.
To be fair, there is a lot of poker being played and the media and the players on the roster are the pawns of the game.
Executives manipulate both to get the things they covet.
So it’s not surprising to hear that Hornets’ guard Eric Gordon felt betrayed by the L.A. Clippers after he was told he wasn’t going to be traded a couple of days before he was traded to New Orleans in a package for Chris Paul.
“All you do is take the man’s word and take that he said that no one is going to go anywhere,” Gordon told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. “… To completely lie like that is something unprofessional.”
“They literally told me as an organization that they wanted to keep me, and [the trade still] went down?”
Gordon and Clipper/Hornet teammate Chris Kaman were traded together and Kaman says he found out about the deal from his relators’ son, not the Clippers.
“He said, ‘Hey, you got traded.’ I was like, ‘C’mon,’ ” Kaman said. “Then everyone started talking to me like, ‘Hey, what happened?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ Then my agent wasn’t calling me. I couldn’t get ahold of him. Then Farouq talked to his agent and said it was done.”
“The Clippers didn’t tell me anything. They didn’t tell me I was traded or nothing after eight years. They didn’t have the guts to come tell me they traded me.”
To again be fair to the Clippers, the NBA as a business is a fluid situation – a deal that looked bad on Monday, looks much more attractive on Thursday. When teams start tossing in the right pieces, deals that seemed unlikely, come together quickly.
Clippers’ GM Neil Olshey says that’s exactly what happened with the Chris Paul deal.
“I’m not deceptive enough to look players in the eye and tell them something that is not true,” Olshey said. “And I can tell you from an ownership level, the president of our company, myself, we made a corporate decision Monday morning that when the deal didn’t go through on Sunday night we would no longer pursue the trade. And that’s when we notified our players, to get the elephant out of the room during our abbreviated training camp.”
If you rewind back to when the deal went down, the Clippers had pulled out of the deal only to have the Hornets/NBA reengage with a different offer. It was that revised offer that ultimately got the Chris Paul deal done.
“Based on normal circumstances, the players have the right to be somewhat sensitive,” Olshey said. “But until it was absolutely consummated at the NBA level, why would we preemptively notify players they were traded? And on the off-chance the deal didn’t go through for some reason, we’d have to deal with the same fallout that Houston and the Lakers had to deal with.
“I’m completely empathetic on how the guys found out. Had it not been a community-relations day and they wouldn’t have been on the buses, they would have been at home and we would have been able to call all of them.”
Being traded is never a fun experience, and that’s why most teams in the NBA refuse to comment on trade speculation because it creates exactly this kind of issue.
The reality is that as much as teams and executives want to be honest with their players – they can’t be.
Mainly because what was a non-starter one day, is openly considered the next – that’s the fluid nature of sports.
The one things GMs try and be sensitive about is that more than 90% of the deals that get talked about die quickly and if teams had to manage the ego of every player mentioned in every trade discussion, teams would never be focused enough to win and that’s what pro sports at the executive level is all about.
Is there a causal relationship with the truth in the NBA? Absolutely. But that’s how business is done at this level.
Hot And Cold: When thing go right for the Orlando Magic, they tend to go really right. However when things go bad – especially on the road – the Magic become extremely average.
It seems Orlando could be one of the best home teams in the NBA this season, while being one of the worst road teams. Not exactly the winning formula, but as Magic swing man Quentin Richardson pointed out, it’s still early in the season.
“You know it’s an early season right now and with the lockout the short camp and things like that I think we’re still figuring a few things out,” Richardson explained to HOOPSWORLD. “When we’re able to still pull out wins and do different things like that it’s always a good feeling even though you know you’re going through a maturation process and trying to gel and figure out the new pieces and stuff like that and where they fit. “
The Magic thoroughly trounced the Washington Wizards last night, which could have easily been a trap game for the Magic.
“I don’t think any team in the NBA can be taken for granted or over looked,” said Richardson. “We’re all NBA players and anybody can get it going. They definitely got a lot of guys that can get it going any team like that is dangerous.”
The Magic especially at home have been shooting the basketball extremely well, and Richardson says that’s a good change from last year when the team couldn’t seem to a buy a bucket from deep.
“It’s a good sign that we’re shooting the ball well right now or pretty well right now,” explained Richardson. “We’re making some shots and at the end of the day we’re always going to go through big fella so that’s a help.”
Magic star Dwight Howard kicked in 28 points and grabbed 20 rebounds last night. When he is rolling like that the Magic seem all but unstoppable.
“You see it for everybody,” Richardson explained. “ JJ, Ryan, everybody benefits from the big fella. Even if he doesn’t have it going they’ve got to double him because if they don’t double him he is going to get it going.”
The Magic at times struggle with sticking with Dwight, however when the Magic win, its typically because Dwight was imposing and everyone in the Magic locker-room knows good things happen when their “big dog” eats first.
“Fact,” smiled Richardson. “That is definitely a fact.”
The Magic host Chicago on Friday before heading out on a four game road trip.
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