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Rashard Lewis didn’t want to play; Van Gundy says it’s no big deal

By 12.11.09
Rashard Lewis (photo. NBA)

Rashard Lewis (photo. NBA)


There was a moment during last night’s Celtics/Wizards game when Rajon Rondo picked up his second foul late in the second half and Eddie House bounced off the bench to ask Doc Rivers if he should go in for Rondo. TNT’s Mike Fratello praised House for being in-tune enough to realize the dangers of Rondo picking up his third foul before halftime, but Marv Albert (more correctly, I think) speculated House just wanted to get in and get some more shots up.

On the flip side, midway through the second quarter of Jazz/Magic, Rashard Lewis was summoned off the bench by Stan Van Gundy to go in and said, “Nah, I’m good.” (Or something like that.) The incident threatens to spark a mild controversy, but both Lewis — claiming he didn’t want to pick up a third first-half foul or ruin backup PF Ryan Anderson‘s hot streak — and Van Gundy have tried to douse the flames. From the Orlando Sentinel:

“(Lewis) didn’t want to go back in. I wanted to put him back in with six minutes to go in the second quarter and he didn’t want to go back in,” Van Gundy said after the Magic (17-5) had their six-game winning streak broken. “He said it was because he had two fouls, and so if you have a guy who doesn’t want to play, I’m not going to get in an argument and put him back in if he doesn’t want to play at that time.

“He said it was because he had two fouls, and so if you have a guy who doesn’t want to play, I’m not going to get in an argument and put him back in if he doesn’t want to play at that time.

“He said, ‘I’m going back in and be out in three or four minutes and Ryan (Anderson) is playing good.’

“I didn’t have time to get into it. It’s rare and I’ve never had that in the first half of a game. I was a little baffled by it.”

Afterwards, Lewis said, yes, he told Van Gundy he did not want to go back because he picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and that Anderson was rolling. Anderson scored 14 points by halftime after replacing Lewis, Orlando’s highest-paid player at $118 million over six years.

Asked if he was being defiant, Lewis said, “No, hell, no. I was looking at it and Ryan had 14 points and I had two fouls. Let him play.”

However, as the Jazz went on a run a few minutes later and cut into Orlando’s big lead (Utah eventually won the game), Lewis said Van Gundy seemed angry at him.

“He wasn’t pissed at the time,” said Lewis about when he didn’t go in, “but he was pissed when they started making a run. You got to point the finger at something if that’s what you got to point it at. Hey, I don’t give a damn.”

Van Gundy says he isn’t going to make a big deal out of it and recognized Lewis was just trying to be unselfish and think of the team first, but also admitted he sat Lewis longer than usual after the incident because he wasn’t sure if Lewis was “in the right frame of mind” to play. “We need guys who are focused and intense and ready to go,” SVG told reporters.

All told, not much should come of this. Rashard is going to start in Orlando’s next game, he’ll play a lot of minutes, and he’ll get a lot of shots like usual. Van Gundy seems to get into a few overblown spats with his players every year, but as long as he and the Magic are winning, it’s just part of the job.

I did notice that the writer of the Sentinel article seems to have something against Lewis. From randomly mentioning that Lewis has a $118 million contract (that’s like purposely provoking the people who can’t stand how much athletes get paid) to describing one of Lewis’ quotes as a “rambling stream of consciousness,” it looked like an agenda to me. Or else I’m just being extra-defensive of a former Sonic.

UPDATE — On his personal blog today, Rashard gave his side of the story. Here are some excerpts:

* “I know some people out there are going to think there’s a problem there, but I really just think it was heat-of-the-game stuff. And if we had won instead of losing, I doubt this would even be an issue.”

* “I didn’t really think much of it at the time because I really thought I was doing the right thing. We preach sacrificing yourself for the good of the team and I thought that’s what I was doing there because we had the lead and Ryan was shooting so well.”

* “Stan wasn’t even hot about it at the time, but I guess he was after the game. He was mad that we let Utah make a run on us after we got that big lead, but he wasn’t mad at me. But if somebody wants to point a finger and they want to point it at me not wanting to disrupt things in the second quarter, go right ahead. I really don’t give a damn about that.”

* This mess will blow over. I gotta tell you guys, stuff like this happens all the time in NBA locker rooms and on the bench during games. It doesn’t always get out in the public and that’s probably a good thing. We’re a family and sometimes families are going to bicker.”


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