Orlando's Lewis returns to Seattle for first time as opponent Print
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Wednesday, 28 November 2007 01:10
NBA Headline News

 SEATTLE (AP) -Back in the Seattle SuperSonics practice facility, swishing jumpers as he did for nine seasons, Rashard Lewis made sure his Orlando teammates knew he was partly responsible for a Northwest Division championship banner hanging on the wall.
It seemed appropriate, since Orlando spent about $120 million in the offseason to bring Lewis to Orlando with the expectation of adding a few championship banners to their walls.
``I was telling Hedo Turkoglu I put one of those banners up there ... just kind of reminiscing about my time in Seattle,'' Lewis said Tuesday afternoon.
Lewis will make his first - and only appearance this season - back in Seattle on Wednesday night when the Magic face the Sonics at KeyArena.
It's the city and organization Lewis grew up with. When he arrived in 1998, Lewis was an 18-year-old that left straight from high school with the expectation that he would be a first-round pick, then couldn't hide his tears on national television when he slipped into the second round on draft night.
When he left in July, after opting out of the final two years of his contract with the Sonics, Lewis was an All-Star forward and one of the most coveted free agents available. He cashed in on a six-year contract with Orlando after the Magic and Seattle were able to work out a sign-and-trade deal.
Lewis was already leaning on leaving Seattle after Ray Allen was dealt to Boston in a draft-night trade that landed Seattle the rights to rookie Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. Seeing Allen get traded - only moments after Seattle drafted Kevin Durant - fully signaled the start of a rebuilding process that Lewis didn't necessarily want to be part of.
Lewis said Seattle never presented an offer, telling Lewis to see what the market dictated. Lewis said he would have considered returning had the Sonics made an offer in the $90 to 100 million range. He still has moments where he misses the connection to Seattle.
``I started here I grew as a man here. I was drafted in the second round, but I became an All-Star here in Seattle. I grew with the fans, the community,'' Lewis said. ``There was just a lot of things I was really settled in, my feet were really planted in this city.
``Just watching (the Sonics) sometimes on TV, I feel a little jealous I'm not out there on that court with those guys.''
But when Orlando came calling with a maximum deal, it satisfied Lewis' two intentions - finding a situation where winning could happen quickly and financial satisfaction.
The size of the contract has brought criticism on the Magic and pressure on Lewis to match the gaudy numbers. Lewis admits the expectations bothered him early, but has pushed it aside.
``I told you guys before, I think we overpay for everybody, myself included,'' Orlando general manager Otis Smith said. ``He was important for us to have. The reason he was important for us to have is that other guy in the paint.''
The guy Smith referred to is Dwight Howard, the Magic's dominant center. Lewis never played with an overpowering inside presence in Seattle, and has thrived playing off Howard's inside game, averaging 19.8 points, while shooting a career-best 48.7 percent, including 42 percent on 3-pointers.
He's also shown his versatility. When Tony Battie was lost for the season in October with a shoulder injury, coach Stan Van Gundy has played Lewis at power forward in key situations.
The lineup seems to be working. The Magic (13-3) have the second-best record in the NBA and already hold a five-game lead in their division.
``There's a lot more in his game that I haven't even gotten to yet,'' Van Gundy said. ``I'm looking forward to that.''
 

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