Less than a year after the Orlando Magic dealt Rashard Lewis to the Wizards, the franchise has already waived the player it traded him for — writing a $63 million check for Gilbert Arenas simply to go away — and is already in crisis mode with franchise player Dwight Howard formally requesting a trade.
Lewis spent 3 ½ seasons in Orlando, helping the Magic reach the NBA Finals in 2009, and said the uncertainty surrounding Howard is probably difficult on his former teammates.
“I’m sure a lot of those guys are stressed, because Dwight is a main guy on that team and he’s the one that makes that team go. He’s the one that led us to the Finals. Got us to the Eastern Conference Finals and without Dwight, it would be tough to be the type of team that they are,” Lewis said, recently.
Magic General Manager Otis Smith was under intense pressure to revamp the roster last year and he shipped away Lewis and Vince Carter in a deal that yielded Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu. But the moves backfired as Orlando regressed, losing in the first round to Atlanta.
Howard explained his trade demand on Monday during Orlando’s media day activities. “Nobody wants to stay in the same place. You either barbecue or mildew,” Howard said. “I want to barbecue.”
He complained to reporters in Orlando the day before that he hasn’t been consulted on major personnel moves, which has led to his frustration with the organization. “It’s simple, the best player on the team and the GM have a great relationship,” Howard said. “If you go down the line of teams, every GM has a pretty good relationship with not just the best player, but all the players. If you don’t have a good relationship with the guys you work with, how are you guys going to get better?”
Arenas cleared waivers and has drawn interest from Atlanta, but he will reportedly sign with New Jersey if the Nets are able to acquire Howard in a trade. Orlando is still trying to find a way to retain Howard.
“As of right now, I have on a Magic uniform. That’s the only thing that matters. If it’s meant for me to stay then I’ll stay. There is no place I’d rather be than right here in Orlando,” Howard said. “If you’re willing to do what it takes to win, then you’ve got me. if you’re not willing to do what it takes to win, I don’t think anybody would question anybody’s motives.”
Lewis still has several good friends on the Magic, such as point guard Jameer Nelson, and even participated in Howard’s charity exhibition game last month. “It’s more tough than anything for those guys trying to . . . get ready for a season, but you’ve got so much speculation going on with the trade rumors and they can’t focus on just being a basketball team and getting ready for the season and winning the championship,” Lewis said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? I think we’ve got to sit around and wait, but my main focus is not on the Orlando Magic, I’m with the Washington Wizards.”
Coach Flip Saunders praised Lewis on Sunday for his leadership during the first few days of training camp.
“I think, particularly, Rashard has been unbelievable. Just his communication with the guys. He’s been very vocal, in how he’s approached talking to players, giving them constructive criticism. I think a lot of people think it’s out of his nature to be that vocal, but I think that’s been his nature from day one.”