11 July 2007

The Future Is Now: Rashard Lewis Formally Introduced at Press Conference

Magic General Manager Otis Smith, Rashard Lewis, and coach Stan Van Gundy pose together at the press conference announcing Lewis' arrival.
Photo by Jacob Langston, Orlando Sentinel

The Magic made official what had been known for over a week by signing Rashard Lewis to a six-year deal believed to be worth $118 million. To be technical, he actually signed with the Seattle SuperSonics, his former team, which enabled him to get the maximum dollar and year amounts on his deal. Nonetheless, Rashard Lewis is now a part of the Magic.

Expectations for the Magic this coming season will undoubtedly be high. Lewis' deal is, by far, the largest in franchise history. Lewis will be paired with All-Star center Dwight Howard to form what we can only hope will be a deadly inside/out combination. Appearing on 'The Finish Line' on 740 AM, Otis Smith called his team "contenders." We'll certainly find out if he's right in the coming months.

Lewis' arrival creates a logjam at the small-forward position -- the Magic already have Hedo Turkoglu and Trevor Ariza -- but Smith didn't seem concerned. He dismissed the idea that Turkoglu, who started last year, is now expendable: "We'll play two forwards, two guards, and a center. We don't worry about power-forward versus small-forward," is the equivalent of what he said -- I have to paraphrase; I heard the program in the car and had no recording equipment.

Otis' stance indicates that he believes the Magic should play Turkoglu and Lewis at the same time, despite their similar builds and skill-sets. That's all well and good, but the Magic have to be concerned about rebounding with that unit, as both players do not perform well on the boards for someone their size.

Otis also alluded to Trevor Ariza's versatility: "Having Trevor Ariza play more than one position for us, that's important." If Otis is implying that Trevor Ariza will play shooting-guard, Magic fans should be concerned. Ariza lacks the outside shot that shooting-guards require, and playing in the backcourt neutralizes the impact of his athleticism.

Based on Smith's comments, the opening-day depth chart could look like this:

PGJameer Nelson1
--Keyon Dooling2
--Carlos Arroyo3
SGTrevor Ariza1
--J.J. Redick2
--Keith Bogans3
SFRashard Lewis1
--Hedo Turkoglu2
PFTony Battie1
--Pat Garrity2
--James Augustine3
CDwight Howard1

Magic fans, does that roster make us contenders? I don't think so, but it should move us up the ladder in the East. Is a marginal improvement worth $118 million? Decidedly not. If the core of Lewis and Howard does not win a championship, then Otis Smith deserves all the criticism he's received.


MagicMadness said...

I was already disgusted with the contract Smith gave Lewis, but reading that Bill Simmons thing made me feel even worse about it.

Lewis is a great addition to the team, but at the expense of our next 6 years?

6 years ago we had a lineup featuring guys like McGrady, Miller, Armstrong, and Hudson. Things change rapidly in the NBA. If Lewis and Howard don't work out well together, we're pretty screwed for the next half decade, which who knows, might include Howard demanding a trade somewhere down the line.

It's not pessisism, but instead a look at reality. Here's hoping this signing works out great for us, but it would be dumb for even the most optimistic of fans not to even be just a little worried that we took a massive gamble on a non-superstar player. I mean this is Allen Houston territory here. He sent the Knicks into a hole that they're still just now trying to climb out of; I pray the same thing doesn't happen to the Magic.

Anonymous said...

We overpaid for Rashard, I don't think anyone in their right mind can argue that. But what is done, is done. However, Lewis averaged 6.6 boards last year. He's one of a few players that averages over 20 points and pulls down nearly 7 boards. If he can get his assists up to around 5 per, then you have a special player. Still overpaid, but he's no worse than what we lost this summer.

Ben Q. Rock said...

MM, you're right about our inflexibility. If the Howard/Lewis tandem doesn't work out, we're screwed. But as Stan Van Gundy said today during Dwight's press conference, the combination of a dominant big-man with a top-notch perimeter player rarely fails. Let's hope he's right.

Anon, you make good points on Lewis' rebounding. We indeed overpaid, but consider that 'Shard's scoring and PER have both increased each year he's been in the league, it seems to make a bit more sense. Even if he's reached his ceiling, he still has 4-5 years at that level before his skill declines.