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Re: Game 5: Nets @ Heat (11/7 7:30PM)
The last game sprung a few Chalmers articles around the beat, while tonight, Rashard is the focus. His and Spo's comments further put things in perspective. Very encouraging.
Rashard Lewis endured the jokes during his 13-point, two-dunk performance Wednesday night.
He even had to stand and listen after the game, when his locker room neighbor Chris Bosh continued the onslaught.
"I haven't seen him dunk twice since high school," Bosh said, making sure Lewis heard the jab. "So, good night."
To Lewis, though, the dunks -- one coming off a pump fake and drive and the second off a steal and breakaway -- weren't strictly joke material.
Not when he could do nothing of the sort during his time in Washington. Not after undergoing OssaTron treatment in the offseason to address his quadriceps tendinitis and needing two months to recover.
So Lewis actually dedicated his dunks to a particular group of Heat employees: the training staff.
"He told us the dunks were for us," Heat head athletic trainer Jay Sabol said.
When Lewis signed with the Heat last July, the idea was he would fit in perfectly with a team that leans on LeBron James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade inside. That would, ideally, leave Lewis to knock down open threes.
The problem was, there was no certainty Lewis would recover from the quad tendinitis that temporarily crippled his career. Lewis says he never really worked out his legs as much as he did his upper body. He wanted "that beach body," he joked after the Heat beat Brooklyn 103-73, so his lower body became something of an afterthought.
That's why the tendinitis cropped up after more than a decade in the league. And despite several opinions from doctors in different cities, and fighting off the idea of surgery (there was no structural damage, so he didn't want to go under the knife), Lewis just couldn't resolve the issue.
So a few days after signing with Miami, Lewis underwent the OssaTron treatment, which sends powerful sound waves into the tissue and breaks up inflammation, generating new tissue growth. Wade underwent the same treatment late in the 2007-08 season.
That required 30 days of no activity, and at least another month of rehabilitation.
Lewis wasn't able to return to on-court work until a few days before Heat training camp. That first pickup game on the Heat practice court was hardly encouraging.
"I was tired as hell," Lewis said. "Couldn't make a shot, couldn't get my legs under me. It was frustrating."
It was obvious that Lewis, trying to revive his career as a member of the defending champions, was putting immense pressure on himself.
"I saw it on his face," Wade said. "And coming to a new place, too, you want to show that you're worthy of being here. But he stayed with it.
"It's not easy to come in here and figure out your role. He's figured it out quicker than we expected. We know he can knock down big shots. He's done it his whole career. To see that happening this early, it makes us real excited about it."
Lewis considers himself ahead of schedule, in large part because of the persistence of the Heat training staff.
Lewis wasn't the most flexible of players, but the Heat staff stressed the importance of it -- Ray Allen recently joked he hasn't stretched this much in his entire career -- and it has helped.
To be dunking the ball twice in a November game, while worthy of a joke or two, is no laughing matter for Lewis.
"Playing in Washington, it was tough for me to even get any lift on my jump shot," he said. "That just lets you know how good I'm feeling."
That said, don't expect a lot of thunder from Lewis in the near future.
"I told them that's it for the month," he joked.
Spoelstra wouldn't mind that, actually.
Patience has worked well so far for Lewis, and the Heat coach doesn't want his key reserve getting ahead of himself now that it's obvious he can fit in well with this group.
"We really thought big picture with Rashard," Spoelstra said. "I'm not putting a lot of pressure on it.
"Really, it's two or three months down the line before we'll really see him in the type of rhythm like he was when he was playing very well in Orlando."
Until then, this version of Lewis is helping the Heat just fine.
Though he had some trouble staying in front of a few Knicks players during the Heat's lone loss of the season, Lewis hasn't been a defensive liability.
It helps that this defensive system is quite similar to the one Stan Van Gundy taught in Orlando.
Offensively, he's shooting 54.5 percent from the floor, including a 47 percent clip from three-point range.
If Lewis doesn't dunk again this season, the Heat will still take that kind of offensive efficiency.
"I don't know why people sag off him, but he's open every time, and he's gonna shoot it," Bosh said. "Plain and simple."
Chris Tomasson (FOX)
Chris Bosh knew quite well Rashard Lewis was dressing at the locker next to him and listening to every word he said.
So, Chris, what did you think of Lewis throwing down two dunks in Miami's 103-73 walloping Wednesday of Brooklyn?
"I haven't seen him dunk twice since high school," Bosh quipped about the 6-foot-10 forward who was looking for a tuxedo for his senior prom in 1998.
Making the moment funnier is Lewis didn't disagree at all with what his teammate said.
"It seems that way," Lewis said after scoring 13 points off the bench against the Nets. "It's been a minute. It's been a long time."
That Lewis threw it down twice at AmericanAirlines Arena is just more bad news for Heat foes. After all, many wondered how much Lewis, 33, had left after Miami signed him last July to a minimum contract.
Lewis is a two-time All-Star. But, playing on bad knees, he averaged a meager 7.8 points last season with Washington, less than half his career average.
During the previous two years, Lewis was hurting so badly he might have been the tallest guy in the world who couldn't dunk.
"It was tough for me to get any lift on my jump shot," said Lewis, who last was an All-Star when he helped Orlando to the NBA Finals in 2008-09 but didn't look anything like that player after being traded in December 2010 to the Wizards. "So most definitely dunking was out of the question."
But after signing with the Heat, Lewis underwent a non-surgical procedure on his knees called OssaTron, which involves shock waves. He didn't touch a basketball for two months, but came to training camp feeling as good as he had in at least two years.
Still, Lewis didn't dunk in camp. But what happened against the Nets he called an indication of how much better he's now feeling.
"I'm starting to get healthy," Lewis said. "The knee is starting to feel good. I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm getting there. Every week, I'm feeling better and better. I think I'm most definitely ahead of schedule."
The Heat can count regularly on stars Dwyane Wade, who Wednesday scored a game-high 22 points, LeBron James, who had 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists while being needed for just three quarters, and Bosh. They figured free-agent signee Ray Allen would give them an immediate boost off the bench, which he has.
They didn't quite know what to expect from Lewis, who didn't get any contract offers above the minimum. But giving him the minimum of $1.35 million wasn't much of a risk.
"We really thought big picture with Rashard," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who said Lewis started turning the corner the last week of training camp. "I had a conversation with him sometime in September when he was just getting back on the court. It looked like it would be a while before he got back into rhythm. He fought through training camp and it was a big success for his body to get through it… He's come a long way… I'm not putting a lot of pressure on it right now. I think really this is two or three months down the line before you really see him have the type of rhythm when he was playing very well for Orlando."
Nevertheless, what the Heat have now is a guy who is their fifth-leading scorer after five games with a 9.4 average in just 18.5 minutes. He's shooting 54.5 percent from the field, including 47.1 from three-point range.
"He's getting better and better," Wade said. "He's getting his legs under him. I think he's figuring out as well his role and when he comes in, you're going to get opportunities and take them. We want him to be aggressive and that's what he's doing. I think he's doing it a little bit quicker than all of us expected."
Put it all together and the Heat have Allen giving them instant offense off the bench in the backcourt and Lewis doing it for the frontcourt. Allen ranks first in NBA history in three-pointers made and Lewis is eighth.
"I think we both (provide) matchup problems," Lewis said. "(Allen) shoots so well, we're going to set screens for him. But with me playing (power forward), we're spreading the floor. That means the bigs have to come out on the perimeter. And the way my legs feel, I think I can start putting it on the ground and go to the basket."
That's what Lewis did against Brooklyn. He shot a modest 1-of-3 on three-pointers, but was 5-of-6 inside the arc in 19 minutes.
OK, so Lewis didn't grab a single rebound or dish out a single assist. But the Heat certainly will take his scoring.
Don't get too greedy, though, when it comes to Lewis continuing to throw them dunks. It wouldn't be special if he started to do it regularly.
"Guys said… that's first time they've seen me dunk since I've been here," Lewis said. "I told them that's it for the month and they can catch me to try to get another next month."
Considering it has been years since he last had one, what's several weeks to wait for another Lewis dunk?