By A. Sherrod Blakely
WASHINGTON We hear all the time about players going from losing situations to winning ones, and the adjustment that has to be made.
Well, what about players who do just the opposite, players like Rashard Lewis?
Lewis began the season with the Orlando Magic, a team that went to the NBA Finals two years ago and was on the short list of legitimate title contenders this season.
After a so-so start by the Magic, Orlando brass felt a change had to be made.
On Dec. 18, Lewis was traded to Orlando for Washington's Gilbert Arenas.
"Our goal with that trade, with all our trades really, is to make this team better," Orlando General Manager Otis Smith told CSNNE.com. "I believe we've done that."
Lewis said the trade definitely caught him off guard.
"I was definitely surprised," Lewis said. "I heard the rumor that morning. I didn't think nothing of it, because you hear a lot of rumors, all the time."
Celtics guard Ray Allen is one of Lewis' closest friends, a relationship that developed when both played for the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder).
While the two haven't talked specifically about Lewis' current situation, Allen knows it hasn't been easy for him.
"Obviously, he's been flipped; a guaranteed playoff position (in Orlando) to trying to squeeze in (with Washington)," Allen said. "I know it's an emotional roller coaster."
Even with Washington's 85-83 win over Boston on Saturday, the Wizards' reality hasn't changed.
The Wizards (13-29) are still one of the NBA's worst teams.
For Lewis, coming to grips with that has not been easy, especially when you consider the situation he left in Orlando.
"It's a major challenge," Lewis said. "Not only physically, but mentally. It's mostly a mental challenge when you go from a team that's competing for a title, to a team that's rebuilding."
Part of that rebuilding process is to not only become a more competitive team, but occasionally pull off an upset like Saturday's win over Boston.
Lewis had a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds, using his 6-foot-11 frame to score over and around Boston's Paul Pierce, who is 6-7, and 6-6 Marquis Daniels who saw extended minutes because of Pierce being in foul trouble.
And then there are the logistical issues, such as relocating his family to another part of the country, meshing with his new teammates, and learning the current system.
"It's a lot of things that mentally, disrupts you a little bit from focusing on the game of basketball," Lewis said. "And then you don't want to come here with a negative attitude, when you know you're going to be in the playoffs and competing for that ring, to coming here trying to make the playoffs. It's tough, especially when they're rebuilding a young team."
But it certainly helps when you have a dynamic player like John Wall, who had 16 points which included some clutch baskets in the fourth quarter to help the Wizards snap a two-game losing skid.
"He's a talented point guard; very, very young," Lewis said. "has a lot of room for improvement. But definitely talented. He's one of the best point guards in the league. He's fast; he might be the fastest point guard in the league. We're at our strength when we can get stops and get him the ball."
Washington also plays to its strengths when they can get Lewis the ball in a mismatch, which happens a lot when he's moved to the small forward position which allows him to take advantage of both his ability to score around the basket as well as from the perimeter.
"Coming up I played center, but I always liked to shoot," he told CSNNE.com. "I've always enjoyed doing both. And as I got older, I had opportunities to do both. It's working for me."
It certainly was on Saturday night, even if it was as part of a rebuilding effort and not a title chase.
"You adjust," Lewis said. "That's all it is, really. Just adjusting to what you have to do in order to help your team reach its goals."