Rashard Lewis’s tenure with the Washington Wizards was defined more by time spent rehabilitating one of his injured limbs than his contributions on the floor. So he knew – either through trade or buyout – that he was going to be a free agent this summer.
Lewis got both, with the Wizards dealing him to New Orleans last month before the Hornets wrote him a $13.7 million amnesty check to never suit up for the franchise. That gave Lewis the chance to move on – and move on up – when he signed a two-year, $2.8 million deal on Wednesday with the Miami Heat.
So in two weeks, Lewis went from the NBA’s second-worst team, to the third-worst team, to the champions.
“You always want to look at the options of teams that best fit you and your goals to win a championship,” Lewis said in his introductory news conference in Miami. “I thought this was a perfect fit for what I’m trying to do. I’m not looking to re-establish my career and make the All-Star team and score 20 points a night. I want to help the team make the run they’re trying to go on.”
Lewis had a forgettable 1½ seasons in Washington after arriving from Orlando in a trade for Gilbert Arenas. He had to deal with right knee tendinitis a few weeks after the deal, and lost his starting job to Chris Singleton before experiencing a bone bruise in his left knee last season. Despite being the second-highest paid player in the NBA, Lewis was only able to chip in just 7.8 points in 28 games last season.
“It was rough for me, the year and a half that I did spend in Washington,” Lewis said. “I tried to be strictly professional to do what I can to help that team get to the next level but was battered by injuries. It was tough to keep myself in top condition and competing, but most definitely still have the drive of playing the game and loved the game and all I could do was try to help the young guys in Washington.”
In Miami, he will be expected to do more than just applaud from the sideline in a sportcoat. The Heat added the 6-foot-10 Lewis with the hope that he could revert to the form from his days in Orlando, where he was a lethal stretch forward who could hit open three-pointer whenever Dwight Howard was double-teamed. He also had a “taste of being in the Finals” with the Magic, which lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in 2009.
Lewis ranks eighth in NBA history with 1,690 three-pointers but he only connected on 59 of 191 attempts (30.8 percent) in a Wizards uniform. Lewis expects to have more open looks than he ever saw in Washington, with Heat featuring ample offensive threats in three-time most valuable player and NBA Finals MVP LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and his former Seattle SuperSonics teammate Ray Allen. Allen, the all-time leader in three-pointers made, spurned Boston and also signed with Miami.
“You’ve gotta double-team LeBron. You’ve gotta double-team Dwyane Wade. You’ve gotta double-team Chris Bosh and do you think they’re going to leave Ray Allen open? They’ve got to leave somebody open, so I’ve got to go shoot a million jumpers tonight,” Lewis said with a laugh.
Lewis said he has been working hard to get his body prepared for the grind of another 82-game season, a process that actually began during his final few weeks of the regular season. He will have to be physically ready, with Miami planning to use him at power forward, a position he rarely saw with the Wizards.
“I did it when I was in Orlando,” Lewis said. “I may have to just hit the weight room a little harder. Other than that, I don’t think it will be a problem for me going to the four.”
Lewis is excited to be back playing with Allen, whom he credited for helping him made his first all-star appearance in 2005. But after earning more than $170 million in 14 NBA seasons, Lewis is more concerned about capturing an NBA championship before he is eventually forced to leave the game.
“The ball can’t bounce forever,” Lewis said. “I’m at a point in my career where I’ve been on the all-star team, I’ve played for 13, 14 years and I’ve made a pretty good amount of money over my career, so I feel like everybody set goals for their career and my next goal, obviously, is to win a championship.
“I’m sure y’all see the gray hair in my beard. I’m getting older,” Lewis said, chuckling. “I’m ready to win.”