Rashard Lewis to leave Seattle, head south

by July 03, 2007

Hi, it’s Sam. Jon Wiener has been working hard on lots of behind the scenes stuff for the website, but because of some technical issues, his post has to appear under the People’s Champ flag. Jon breaks down the Rashard Lewis signing for you.


By Jon Wiener 

The Orlando Magic couldn’t steal Billy Donovan away from the Gators this summer, but they appear to have secured the next best available thing: Seattle F Rashard Lewis.

Orlando radio station WKMG reported Monday that Lewis, widely considered the top free-agent on the 2007 market, will sign a max deal with the Magic on July 11th, the first day that free-agents can officially sign new contracts. Although the final figures have not been determined/disclosed, Seattle general manager Sam Presti confirmed the deal, reported to be for 5 years and at least 75 million dollars.

In Lewis, the Magic get a 6’10, 9-year veteran who averaged a career-high 22.4 points per game last season. Lewis has averaged 20+ points each of his last three seasons, and he remains one of the more dangerous long-range bombers in the league. Lewis shot 39% from three-point range last season and averaged a career-high 2.5 triples per contest.

Perhaps most importantly, the addition of Lewis gives the Magic a legitimate #2 scoring option to pair with All-Star C Dwight Howard.

“Having a guy like Rashard around would help by game out tremendously,” Howard told Orlando reporters on Tuesday. “The more shooters that we can bring in here the better. Rashard is a shooter and a scorer, and that would help our team so much.”

The Magic, however, may have to cough up slightly more than maximum dollars for Lewis’ services. The team will likely have to renounce the rights to restricted free-agent F Darko Milicic as well in order to create space for Lewis’ maximum contract.

In addition to potentially losing the rights to Milicic, a 22 yr. old who averaged 12.3 ppg in Orlando’s first-round playoff loss to the Pistons, there are significant concerns about whether or not awarding Lewis top dollars is a wise decision. Orlando has given out maximum cash to Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill in years past, and both contracts left the Magic financially-strapped and still in the lower-half of the Eastern Conference.

Lewis, for his part, is a general defensive liability, known only for his scoring, and has been labeled ‘selfish’ and ‘lazy’ during his 9 year stint with Seattle.

Those apprehensions apparently didn’t hold the Magic back. In fact, the Magic reportedly had a commitment from Lewis within 24 hours of the start of the free-agency period on Sunday at 12:01.

The aggressive courting and signing of Lewis is another indication of Orlando’s current push to return to the top of the Eastern Conference, even after Billy the Kid spurned the Orlando faithful by backing-out of his contract and returning to Gainesville.

The Magic were one of the worst offensive teams in the league last year, finishing 27th overall in points per game (94.7). Howard led the team in scoring at 17.6 per game, and Hill was second with 14.4. With those anemic offensive numbers, it is easy to see why the Magic splurged on Lewis. Anything close to his 22.4 points and 2.5 threes per game of a year ago should increase Orlando’s offensive output considerably. Whether or not his 75 million dollar contract will increase Orlando’s win total is a gamble, but a gamble the Magic front-office was willing and excited to take.