Rashard Lewis’s former franchise is no longer in the place that he left it — figuratively and literally. A year after Lewis departed Seattle to sign in Orlando in 2007, the SuperSonics bolted for Oklahoma City and became the Thunder.
Only a few faces remain from his days with the organization, including former teammate Nick Collison. Lewis realized the franchise was starting over when it drafted Kevin Durant and traded Ray Allen to Boston for the draft rights to Jeff Green, but he can appreciate what the team has accomplished on the court since he’s been gone.
“They turned it around and they built around the right player in Kevin Durant as well as [Russell] Westbrook,” Lewis said. “Even though they are not in Seattle anymore, they’re in Oklahoma – I would love to see a team back in Seattle – they had the right guys and the right talent when they started the rebuild.”
Lewis said he has kept tabs of Durant since the District native starred at Texas. “He’s an amazing player, with how tall he is, the wingspan he has and the length. But the things he does on the floor, is almost unheard of and for him to be so young to be already where he’s at, he’s most definitely one of the best players in the league. Scoring champion. Olympic team. He’s done a lot of things.”
He added that at 32, he often finds himself watching Durant and reflecting on the time when he was a young whippersnapper capable of running the floor with abandon. “You always think about when you was young and had those fresh legs like Durant has now,” Lewis said with a laugh. “But he’s most definitely a special talent.”
Lewis is expected to return on Wednesday against the franchise formerly known as the Sonics after taking the previous game off against Houston to rest his ailing right knee. He explained that he needed to sit out against the Rockets because he was worn down after playing four games in five nights. He added that he might have to rest at times through this condensed season.
“I think coach will monitor my minutes,” Lewis said. “Especially when we’re playing back to backs and four in five, then we’ll have that tripleheader and I think he’ll try to watch my minutes, because he wants me to get out there with the guys on the floor.“
With Lewis out against the Rockets, Coach Flip Saunders was able to give rookie Jan Vesely more minutes and he earned them by playing solid defense on Luis Scola. Vesely had career-highs with seven points and six rebounds and spent the final 16 minutes on the floor. “Even though Jan didn’t put up huge numbers, he did the best job we had anyone do as far as in picking roles, helping out. So that’s why he stayed out there,” Coach Flip Saunders said of Vesely.
Lewis missed the playoffs in six of his nine seasons with the SuperSonics, but never dealt with losing on the level he has in Washington. He said it is important for the players to remain positive throughout their struggles. “We got to keep going. We can’t let our heads down and we get let our body language show on the court, because our body language is the way we play. You got to keep playing through the mistakes. Even when you make mistakes, run back on defense. Miss a shot, run back on defense. Turn it over, run your butt back on defense and just keep going. Eventually, everything will turn around. You’ve got to keep playing hard though.”