Breakout Season for Rashard Lewis

In NBA, PHILOSOPHY OF SPORT, SPORTS on October 25, 2008 at UTC.47.31.

Last season, his first with the Orlando Magic, Lewis was regarded as a distant 3rd scorer behind Dwight Howard & Hedo Turkogolu. This season with the Magic’s sights firmly affixed to an NBA Finals bid, Lewis is being asked to be more “selfish” on the offensive end. This may or may not be a role Lewis can excel in. Lewis has always been known as a team player, so can he cahnge his game for the good of the team?

If the Orlando Magic continue to ‘drink the Kool-Aid” and insist this team is Championship caliber this season, then he damn well better. I like what Lewis brings to the table on the offensive side, though he leaves a lot to covet with his defensive lapses with uneven play on the defensive side of the ball. I mean with his athleticism & length he should be more like Sean Marion with explosive offense.

So why doesn’t he excel on defense? Perhaps, he’s never accepted the role.

What are some of his team mates saying about Lewis’s upcoming season? “I think Rashard deferred too much last season because he’s a very unselfish guy,” teammate Jameer Nelson said. “We definitely need him to be more selfish this season.”

To Rashard’s credit he’s been the consummate team-mate in year 1 with the Magic. He’s the exception to the rule of ‘selfish All-Stars,’ Lewis is the polar opposite. How many times do here team mates & brass asking a player to be more selfish for the good of the team? hardly ever, but with Lewis’ game barely tapped until the playoffs last season, that’s exactly what the Magic are requiring for him. As a fan of the Magic, I eagerly await the emergence of Lewis’ break-out season!

“(Being more selfish) is something that I need to do, but not necessarily trying to do,” Lewis said. “It’s just my nature to play the right way. When I’m double teamed, I’m going to look for the open man. But at some points in the game I do have to be more selfish to score more points when we need baskets. I’m more comfortable with the system, with the guys and now I’m more ready to be a little more selfish.”

The playoffs saw Lewis hold his own against superstar Chris Bosh. In the Pistons series he went off for a career high 33 points in one game. This is the main reason why GM Otis Smith is asking him not to defer to much to others. Besides, with the type of contract (6 years @ $118 mil) dude signed last season, he should be the first option on offense followed closely by Howard & Turk. Lewis has GAME, and he’s just scratching the surface.

“There was a lot of pressure with the contract and having to learn the guys and the coaching staff, but this year I feel no pressure at all,” Lewis said candidly. “I’m more relaxed, more myself and out there to just play the game. I have that pressure off and I’m just ready to play ball.”

Everyone knows Lewis is mild mannered, so when came to the Magic he had to learn how to co-exist with oft outspoken coach Stan ‘the man’ Van Gundy. Remember, Van Gundy and Howard had a blow-up last season because Howard wouldn’t committ on the defensive side of the ball. Van Gundy, from that Old-school philosophy of Coaching–who believes you motivate by loud vocal beratings may have intimidated his first year superstar last season.

Is Lewis ready this season to step his GAME up, or for more public beratings?

“When we first heard that voice, it was like, ‘This guy screams too much and it’s starting to get on my nerves.’ I didn’t know if I could take it too much and I wanted to scream back at him,” Lewis said. “But that’s just the way he coaches the game. He talks loud, he coaches loud and he’s trying to get his point across.”

Still, Lewis has the respect of his team mates. Floor general Nelson is one of his biggest supporters. Listen to his statements:

“‘Shard came up big time for us in the playoffs,” Nelson said. “He’s the type of guy who never complains when you tell him to do something, but he’s always ready to go. He stepped it up in the playoffs. We were successful because of him.”

Is he ready to be a vocal leader this season? Yes, check this, “I’m not afraid to curse out Jameer, Dwight and Turk if they need it because I’m trying to make them better.”

“Last year was different for me because I was still fitting in with the guys, seeing how they like to play and what their personalities are,” he said. “This year I’m comfortable with the guys, comfortable with the city and I’m settled in my house. I have to step my game up in certain situations. Big games and performing in those situations, that’s what they pay me for.”


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