June 21, 2013

Rashard Lewis...NBA Champion

Two years ago, former Wizards Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson won their first (and to date only) NBA Championship as members of the Dallas Mavericks. The trio had been traded to the Mavericks the previous season as part of a deal which netted the Wizards essentially no assets whatsover. Although I guess the trade started or speeded the tear down and rebuild process in Washington.

Other than Antawn Jamison, I can't think of an active former Wizard more deserving of an NBA Championship with another franchise than Caron Butler. Tough Juice made two All-Star appearances as a Wizard, is a super high character guy and has hands down the best nickname in the NBA. Even though Caron didn't play during the Mavericks' title run, I'm glad he got a ring. He's the only reason I would even consider rooting for the current version of the Los Angeles Clippers. And in case you are wondering, I did drop in the "active" word to sidestep the whole Gilbert Arenas thing.

After Antawn and Caron, my list of former Wizards who I'd like to see win an NBA Championship is small, but I'd put Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson on the list. Unlike a lot of Wizards fans, I actually believe Brendan added a lot of value during his time in D.C. Despite his sometimes selfish attitude, B Wood was no doubt a solid starter and gave a small measure of defensive credibility to an otherwise terrible defensive team. He ranks 6th all time in franchise history in games played, 7th all time in rebounds and 4th all time in blocked shots. Longevity has a lot to do with those rankings but not bad for a guy that most Wizards fans I meet are glad to be rid of.

I have less to say about DeShawn but let me just say that without D Steve, our battles with the Cleveland Cavaliers would have been a lot less fun and we wouldn't have had Soulja Boy attending playoff games or discussed Abe Lincoln neck and crack-in-the-forehead tattoos. I'd give DeShawn a championship as thanks for a few solid seasons as a starter and getting under LeBron James' skin more than probably any other player in the NBA. I think it's fitting that DeShawn came out on top in what is likely his last playoff series against LeBron.

Since the Mavericks won their title in 2011, both versions of the "we can't win a title by ourselves so we are just going to tip the odds in our favor by ganging up on the rest of the league" Miami Heat have featured three former Wizards and both versions have won titles. Last year's Heat team featured ex-Wizards Juwan Howard, Mike Miller and Ronny Turiaf; this year's Heat team subtracted Turiaf (joined Caron Butler's Clippers) and added Rashard Lewis. Based on their tenure as Wizards, most of these guys have to feel pretty good about the fact they have won a ring or two.

Juwan Howard played in Washington for the better part of seven NBA seasons (three as a Bullet; three plus as a Wizard) and put up some fairly respectable numbers. But along the way in his career after showing some promise as a player in Washington, the NBA got a little confused about Howard's impact on the game and somehow he ended up with a seven year, $105 million contract which he could never live up to because he's just not that player. Unfortunately, Howard's legacy in D.C. is in large part defined by that contract and by the time I started buying season tickets, he was the poster child for the management failures of the franchise. Somewhat unfair to Juwan I guess; nobody forced Abe Pollin to give him that contract. I don't feel cheated by Juwan picking up a couple of rings courtesy of the Heat necessarily. He's lasted a long time in the league.

Not so much with Mike Miller. Miller (along with Randy Foye) was part of the now infamous trade Ernie Grunfeld made with the Minnesota Timberwolves before the 2009 NBA Draft. The theory behind this trade was that the Wizards were somehow within striking distance of an NBA title and that we just needed a couple of veterans to put us over the edge despite the fact the team only managed 19 wins the previous year. So Miller and Foye, both of whom had one year left on their current contracts, were acquired to put us over the top. It didn't work. Miller was beset by a series of injuries that limited him to 54 games played and his scoring average dipped to the lowest of his career other than the previous year in Minnesota. But more than anything else, Miller seemed unwilling to lead in Washington. He seemed intent on passing on good looks whenever he played, determined to try to get others involved at the expense of wide open shots. Add all that to the fact that he had to be told to not wear LeBron James' line of shoes on the court and the whole thing ended up as a disaster. From my perspective, Miller just used his stay in D.C. as a spot to land before he could move on to things he was more interested in. Miller's clearly given the Heat more in the last two years than he tried to do with the Wizards.

Ronny Turiaf? Well, I like Ronny but I can sum up his contributions as a Wizard in less than 10 words: four games played, six points scored. 'Nuff said.

And then there's Rashard Lewis. I think the best thing I can say about Lewis' time in Washington is that he kept his roster spot. I can't remember a single memorable play he made. Lewis was acquired from the Orlando Magic in December of 2010 for former franchise cornerstone Gilbert Arenas. My numbers may be a little off here but by my reckoning, Rashard Lewis earned $30,618,526 in his season and a half plus with the Wizards. And for that sum of money, the Wizards got 60 games, 1,745 minutes, 581 points and 293 rebounds. Just so you don't have to do the math, that's over half a million bucks per game, more than $17,500 per minute played, $52,000 plus per point and a staggering $116,420 per rebound. This past season, Kevin Seraphin played more games and more minutes, scored more points and hauled in more rebounds than Lewis did in a year and a half. Seraphin made a little less than $1.8 million this year. I'm not sure Lewis made much of a difference in Miami but he sure didn't try to make much in Washington.

Is all this just bitterness? Am I annoyed about the Heat winning another title? Yes and yes. I'm glad it's over. I can't wait for the NBA Draft and Summer League. Maybe next year somebody can beat the Heat.

Rashard Lewis...smiling all the way to the bank. Or something.