01 July 2007

UPDATED: Free Agency is Upon Us: Is Rashard Lewis Out of Reach?

Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith can't get down on himself if free-agent Rashard Lewis suddenly becomes unavailable.
Photo by Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel

At the stroke of midnight just moments ago, the period during which NBA teams may negotiate with free agents began. In all likelihood, Otis Smith is already on the phone with Rashard Lewis, hoping to set up a meeting in Orlando in hopes of signing this summer's top free-agent prize. But it might be a tougher sell than anticipated. If there is any truth to this report, kindly pointed out by CLos over at Magic Madness, Lewis is only using us to drive up his asking price with the SuperSonics in hopes of forcing a sign-and-trade deal involving the SuperSonics and either the Mavericks or Rockets.

UPDATE: The Houston trade is no longer a rumor and a great fear now strikes me; the story showed up on ESPN.com early Sunday morning. Said Rockets GM Daryl Morey:
"We really want him. We think he would be a significant player for us. Rashard would have to be motivated to come."
Lewis played his high-school ball in Houston and could be motivated to return home.

Then there's the report to which I linked yesterday, which states that the Heat are dangling Udonis Haslem and Jason Williams' expiring contract in front of the Sonics in exchange for Lewis.

These reports, if they can be believed, seem to damper the Magic's hopes of getting Lewis, who knows the Mavericks, Rockets, and Heat are much closer to contending than the Magic are. Think of the star power already on each of those teams:
  • Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki, who won the MVP award last season, and the young Josh Howard, who was a first-time All-Star selection last season.
  • Houston has arguably the best inside-outside combination in the league with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. New head coach Rick Adelman is well-known for being popular with his players.
  • Miami has Shaquille O'Neal, who is the most dominant center of this generation, and Dwyane Wade, who single-handedly won Miami the title in 2006.
Fortunately, Dallas and Houston don't have much to offer Seattle in terms of a trade. Young point guard Devin Harris is the only asset Dallas has, and he'd have to be inked to a hefty extension for the salaries to match up. Houston could put Rafer Alston, Shane Battier, and Jake Tsakilidis together, but Alston and Battier have unattractive, long-running contracts and Tsakilidis is a total stiff.

Miami is what worries me the most. Udonis Haslem is a valuable role-player in this league, and Jason Williams' hefty contract comes off the books in 2008, just in time for the Sonics to make a play in free-agency. Of course, Lewis would have to approve any sign-and-trade deal, but why wouldn't he approve one to Miami? After all, they're only one year removed from the title, and Lewis knows that he could make them a contender again in a hurry. Miami has all the benefits of Orlando -- beautiful weather, no state income taxes -- and it can contend immediately.

What seemed like a sure thing just days ago now seems far less of one. I wouldn't give up hope yet, though; those rumors may not be true and Lewis may prefer to play in Orlando after all. But after hearing this news, I suspect Otis Smith would do well to get Gerald Wallace on the line as well.


Jake said...

Dallas has Jason Terry, who is a native of Seattle and very popular there. He's one of the best shooters in the league and would be a great replacement for the departed Ray Allen.

Just sayin'.


Ben Q. Rock said...

Thanks for that, Jake. I suppose it would make more sense for Terry to be included in the deal. I read elsewhere that the Mavs are high on Devin Harris because they want him to be their answer for Tony Parker for the next several years.