Rashard Lewis to make debut with Wizards tonight

By Michael Lee
Monday, December 20, 2010; 12:58 PM

It has been lost in all of the hysteria surrounding Gilbert Arenas's departure, but the Wizards actually acquired a former all-star player in their deal with the Orlando Magic. Rashard Lewis arrives in town on Monday, will take a physical this morning and is expected to make his debut when the Wizards host the Charlotte Bobcats at Verizon Center.

Lewis becomes the only member of the Wizards who played in the league during the 1990s, and the second player on the roster to enter the league directly out of high school. Aside from the financial savings his contract provides in comparison to Arenas's, the 6-foot-10 Lewis is a 12-year-veteran who is accustomed to winning. He carries a resume that includes two all-star appearances, playing on four 50-win teams, reaching the conference finals twice and the NBA Finals once.

"He comes from a winning environment and we're real pleased to have him on our ball club," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "We're rebuilding around our young players, rebuilding through the draft. But to be able to do that, you also have to have some veteran leaders and Rashard is one of those players who can lead by example, right along with Kirk [Hinrich] and Josh Howard, of course. We think Rashard is going to be able to help our squad with his versatility, his ability to stretch the defense."

He is also in the fourth year of a six-year, $118-million contract that has long been considered one of the most exorbitant in the league for a player who has averaged more than 21 points just one time in his career. But he is also a 39.1 percent three-point shooter who could provide a stretch forward for No. 1 overall pick John Wall. "We're trying to move on, get everything involved and to add another piece like Rashard, who pick and pop and rebound, a big person that can play two to three positions, the three and the four, I think he'll help us out a lot," Wall said.

His production has declined since helping the Magic reach the NBA Finals in 2009 and he is averaging just 12.2 points this season in Orlando, his worst scoring output since his second year in the league. But the Wizards believe that the 31-year-old has some game left and will be an asset.

"Since [Hedo] Turkoglu left [Orlando], they probably haven't run many plays for him. Two years ago, the guy was an all-star. He hasn't had major injuries or anything else, so I think, in our system, he'll fit in pretty well," Coach Flip Saunders said about Lewis, who spent the first eight years of his career with the Seattle SuperSonics. "He became kind of one dimensional. We want to get him back to the way he was in Seattle. He'd post up smaller threes and when he played the four, he'd stretch the fours out. He became a tough matchup because he had an ability to do a little of both and I hope he'll have an ability to do that."

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