Rashard Lewis’s injury-plagued stint in Washington likely coming to an end
By Michael Lee,
With the Washington Wizards keeping him at home the past month to deal with a bone bruise in his left knee, Rashard Lewis has gone through the routine of taking his daughter, Gianna, to school every morning, heading to Verizon Center for rehabilitation and treatment, then picking her up from school on the way home for family time.
The experience has been helpful to his wife, Giovanni, who is eight months pregnant with their third child. Tending to his wife and daughter, and chasing around his 1-year-old son, Rashard Jr., has had its pleasurable moments, but the drab existence of a domesticated house-husband is not the life that Lewis has grown accustomed to over the past 14 seasons in the NBA.
“I’m not no home man,” Lewis said with a laugh. “I love home, but I’m used to being away from home, too. I miss [playing].”
Lewis said he has been increasing his workouts in recent days in an effort to possibly return to action before the second lockout-shortened season of his career comes to an end next Thursday. But he didn’t travel with the Wizards to Miami for their game against the Heat on Saturday, and with few practices remaining, it’s doubtful that he’ll play in one of the final three games.
There is a strong possibility that Lewis has played his final game with the organization.
From the time Lewis was acquired from Orlando in exchange for Gilbert Arenas in December 2010, the primary selling point was that his exorbitant contract included a buyout that could remove him from the books in 2012. Lewis earned enough incentives from his time with the Magic that he can be bought out for $13.7 million of his $22 million salary before next season, which would provide considerable savings for the Wizards to sign potential free agents or acquire talent in trades. If the Wizards bought out Lewis, they would still have the amnesty clause available to possibly part ways with Andray Blatche.
“I try my best not to think about . . . what’s going to happen to me after the season is over with. I think that’s pretty much out of my hands,” Lewis said. “I’ll just do my best to focus on getting healthy and being productive out there on the court.”
The second-highest paid player in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant this season, Lewis has had another frustrating year in Washington as he lost his starting small forward job to rookie Chris Singleton and has posted his worst production since his rookie season in Seattle. He is averaging just 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds, while shooting just 23.9 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
Lewis has described his time in Washington as “disappointing” because injuries to both knees have prohibited the former two-time all-star from contributing at a high level, as he had in previous stops with the Magic and SuperSonics. In 60 games with the Wizards, Lewis has averaged just 9.7 points and made 30.8 percent of his three-point attempts.
“It was frustrating a lot of times because I know I can go out here and compete,” he said. “It makes me mad. I guess, you got to just take the good with the bad. I had the good in Orlando, but coming here, I’ve just had injuries, wasn’t able to be 100 percent and showcase my skills, showcase my talent. I know I’m a lot better player than this.”
He was done in last season by right knee tendinitis, which led to him having a platelet rich plasma treatment and training strenuously to bounce back. After arriving to training camp in decent shape, Lewis still dealt with occasional bouts of soreness — and not only in his knee.
The Wizards (16-46) struggled at the start because of what Lewis perceived as too much individual play. He also felt that former coach Flip Saunders hadn’t done enough to keep his players in line.
“In training camp, we worked hard, we showed a lot of talent and that we could go out and compete. Once training camp was over, guys starting looking for more individual stuff, instead of playing together as a team,” Lewis said. “I still feel we have a talented team and Flip was a good coach, but at the same time, he had to discipline these guys to do the right things. Everybody knew their role, but I don’t think it was enforced as much as it should’ve been. [Coach Randy Wittman] has enforced it a lot more.”
Lewis has played in only 13 of 45 games since the coaching change. He made his last appearance on Feb. 22 against Sacramento and landed awkwardly on his left knee after grabbing a rebound.
Though his numbers have declined dramatically since he made his last all-star appearance in 2009, the 32-year-old Lewis believes he still can be a contributor for many years to come — once he gets healthy.
“I still feel like I got a lot of basketball in me. I know I can still play at a high level. I know I can still run and jump. It’s just getting healthy,” Lewis said. “I know I’m not nowhere near the end of my career. I feel like I’m most definitely in my prime. You’re going to look up one day and say, ‘Sweet Lew’ is back.”