Rough Season Grows Rockier for Lewis
Only the winning has made it tolerable.
As the Orlando Magic are preparing their playoff push and hoping for a run at a title, Lewis is mired in the worst slump of an increasingly frustrating season, seeing his aim and his game disappear.
It was accentuated Sunday by a dismal performance in the midst of a 96-89 upset loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.
His problems have become a worrisome undercurrent for a team that otherwise has looked strong since the All-Star break.
He is scoring less (14.2 ppg), rebounding less (4.5 rpg) and shooting a lower percentage (.425) than he has in 10 years.
"Rashard is just not playing well right now. It's not just the shooting. He's not rebounding the ball. He's just not playing with much energy,'' said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "He's turning the ball over. He's not making the shots he's taking. I have confidence he'll bounce back, but right now he's not playing well.''
Lewis is the best-paid player ($18.7 million) on the defending Eastern Conference champions -- ninth highest-paid player in the NBA -- yet he has sunk to the fourth option on his own team, an issue that could cause problems quickly if the team falters.
Lewis' slump has not been all self-inflicted. Since the arrival of Vince Carter, the improvement of J.J Redick, and the increased emphasis on Dwight Howard, Lewis has been getting fewer plays called for him. He is averaging just 11.7 shots per game, which is two fewer than last season.
"There have been times (in the past) I was frustrated over shots, when I wanted the ball more, but I wasn't on good teams then,'' Lewis said. "I'm a veteran now on a good team, a team competing for a championship. It's loaded. Sometimes you have to sacrifice for that. As long as we're winning, I'm comfortable with it.''
Lewis made only one of seven shots Sunday for three points. It was the third consecutive game he failed to reach double figures and the fourth time in the last six games he scored nine points or fewer.
He may have averaged more than 20 points in his last three seasons in Seattle, and 18.2 and 17.7 points the last two seasons with the Magic, but now he can't sniff 20 points on a good night.
He has scored 20 points only once in the last 22 games. He has made only 18 of his last 56 shots. He led the NBA last season in 3-pointers taken and made, but his confidence seems to have waned recently.
"I'm comfortable in the offense now. Our first option is Dwight (Howard). Vince (Carter) and Jameer (Nelson) have been playing great. As we get closer to the playoffs, I'll have to get myself more involved. If plays aren't called (for me), I better find ways to contribute more. It would have helped tonight.''
After 12 years in the NBA, Lewis has tempered his frustration over his own struggles. He isn't about to complain about a reduced role while his team is winning.
"There is no frustration when you're winning,'' he said. "If you win, you don't worry. I'm not getting as many shots, but it doesn't matter now. If you lose, that's when there is going to be frustration, that's when you need to look at yourself in the mirror.''