Rashard Lewis is no longer the baby-faced kid who entered the NBA straight out of high school in 1998.
He made that clear Wednesday when he told the South Florida media about his already graying hair. It was Lewis’ way of saying his career is nearing an end and time is running out to win a championship. That’s what made it an easy decision for him to sign with the Miami Heat for the league veteran’s minimum of $ 1.3 million.
The move became official when he and Ray Allen were both introduced as the team’s newest members.
“I’m at a point in my career to where I’ve been on the All-Star team, played for 14 years,” Lewis said. “I’ve made a pretty good amount of money over my career. Everybody sets goals over their career. My next goal is obviously to win a championship. The ball can’t bounce forever. I’m sure y’all see the gray hairs on my head. I’m getting older. I’m ready to win.”
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Lewis, 32, is part of the Heat’s attempt to avoid overconfidence despite winning last season’s NBA title. Team president Pat Riley the last time it happened in 2005-06 opted to return with essentially the same team, but Miami has already upgraded with Lewis and Allen.
“We are very delighted that Rashard decided to come to Miami,” Riley said. “As we said a couple of years ago when we started to rebuild the team, I think it’s important year in and year out that you continue to try to add quality talent, experience, players who want to make a commitment to winning. I think we found out over the last couple of days how hungry Rashard is.”
Lewis “got a taste” of playing in the Finals when he made it with the Orlando Magic in 2009. The Magic lost in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers. Lewis then saw his chances of winning a title diminish when he was traded to the Washington Wizards in 2010. He spent one-and-half seasons there before he was traded to the New Orleans Hornets last month.
His contract was then bought out, making him a free-agent target of the Heat.
“It was rough for me, the year-and-a-half that I did spend in Washington,” Lewis said. “I tried to be strictly professional and do what I can to help the team get to that next level.”
Lewis also battled through various nagging injuries while in Washington, including tendinitis in his right knee and a bone bruise on the left. He said he is completely healed from both and ready to fulfill whatever role the Heat expect.
Coach Erik Spoelstra and Riley sparked interest in Lewis because of his 3-point shooting, but ultimately it was his versatility that caused the courtship. Lewis can play both forward spots, meaning LeBron James and Shane Battier will have to play less out of position.
“The versatility is really what’s key,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not necessarily 3-point shooting. It’s the versatility to play multiple positions. We’ve talked about it now for a while. The more we can become position-less, the more exciting it can be.”
The 6-foot-10 Lewis began his career as a high-scoring wing with the Seattle SuperSonics, but has since developed into a combo forward. He said the adjustment process began when he arrived in Orlando.
“I can convert to it,” Lewis said of playing power forward. “I don’t think it’s going to be difficult for me because I did it when I was in Orlando. I may have to just hit the weight room a little harder. Other than that, I don’t think it will be a problem for me going to the four.”
The move also reunites Lewis and Allen, who teamed together in Seattle from 2003-07. Lewis said he “stole” some of Allen’s shooting workouts when they went separate their ways. They remained close over the years, with their wives being good friends.
Lewis credited Allen for helping “me get to my first All-Star game” in 2005.
“We’re both excited about it,” Lewis said. “Not only on the court, but off the court as well … Over the years we’ve kept a good relationship. I most definitely know the chemistry is there. It’s just getting back out on the court and rebuilding that court chemistry.”
Catching up with an old friend was considered the bonus, with the real carrot being able to play alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Lewis has already begun preparing for the opportunity of having so many open looks at the basket.
“You’ve gotta double-team LeBron,” Lewis said. “You’ve gotta double-team Dwyane Wade. You’ve gotta double-team Chris Bosh and do you think they’re going to leave Ray Allen open? They’ve got to leave somebody open, so I’ve got to go shoot a million jumpers tonight.”