The NBA is reportedly proposing another so-called “amnesty” clause in the next collective bargaining agreement to allow teams to waive a player and pay the rest of his contract without having it count against the salary cap or the luxury tax. Rashard Lewis is the most likely candidate for the Wizards to release if such a provision is ratified, since he is guaranteed to receive $32 million of the $43 million that he is owed over the next two seasons.
Lewis is slated to be the second-highest paid player in the NBA next season, behind only Kobe Bryant, and has already pledged his willingness to sit out the upcoming season and “sacrifice” his entire salary in order to get a fair deal. Several of the NBA’s biggest stars are participating in a critical negotiating session on Friday, which could go a long way toward determining if Lewis will have to stand by those words.
But if the owners and the players’ union can reach an agreement – with or without an amnesty clause – and Lewis is back with the Wizards, the 13-year veteran forward has been working hard to make sure that the player that arrives in training camp looks nothing like the one who averaged in 11.4 points 32 games for the team last season. He also doesn’t want to look much like the player who made one all-star appearance in 3 ½ seasons in Orlando.
“I’m trying to go back to my Seattle days,” Lewis said last week in Las Vegas at Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series.
Coach Flip Saunders wanted to give Lewis more freedom to play a style more reminiscent of his 20-point scoring days with the SuperSonics, which seemed a tad difficult with Lewis getting older and dealing with tendonitis in his right knee for all of last season. In order to get back to what he was, Lewis had to get healthy, and that started with him getting a platelet rich plasma treatement in March.
“It’s a slow process. It most definitely did help” Lewis said. “I won’t say it worked 100 percent, because we did a million different things trying to find out the problem and a cure for it. The PRP is something that helps, but it doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve got to rehab, continue to strengthen the quad, the tendon as well. But it gets better over time. It’s not like, you can just take the shot, lay…down and think it’s going to heal. It takes rehabbing with it.”
Lewis has spent most of his offseason working out at Plex Training Facility in Houston with Danny Arnold, who also trains NFL stars such as Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers and Derrick Johnson. Lewis said he has been “doing a lot of strength and conditioning on my legs and it’s enabled me to get on the court without any pain. I’m doing some basketball work, but my main goal, coming into the summer was my knee. Because I know going into an 82-game season, if my knee isn’t acting right, I can’t play at that level.”
Lewis doesn’t want to say that he is all of the way back, since Impact trainers kept him from playing more than two games on consecutive days to rest his knee. But when he was on the floor, Lewis did display more explosiveness, as he drove down the lane for dunks and even had an impressive rebound putback dunk in which he swung on the rim.
His teammates in Las Vegas also let him work more in the low post, where Lewis has always possessed a decent back-to-the-basket game. After his trade from the Orlando Magic last December, Lewis mentioned that his role in Orlando was mostly to spread the floor for all-star center Dwight Howard, which caused his game to regress even as the team had success.
“I’m trying to get back to attacking the basket, even posting up, as well as shooting threes,” Lewis, 32, said. “Three years of being a spot-up shooter took away from my game. It was hard to adjust overnight when I got to Washington. I’ve had time to work on my knee and my legs and be aggressive and attack the basket. I still need to work on shooting the three ball. I think that will make me a better player, inside, outside. I can’t be a one-dimensional player on the Washington Wizards.”
But a dunker? “I got a couple of dunks. I’m not used to dunking,” Lewis said with a grin. “That was the Seattle days.”