And with that, he was gone.
Rashard Lewis, having spent the first nine years of his career in Seattle, growing from a gangly high-schooler who only scored 47 points his rookie season to an All-Star small forward who became the most coveted free agent of the summer, is no longer a Seattle Supersonic. Lewis indicated to the Orlando Magic on Monday that he will sign a max-contract deal with the club on July 11, the first day free agents are allowed to sign on the dotted line (as reported by Marc Stein at espn.com).
It's an odd feeling, but not as odd as one might expect considering the length of his stay in town. In fact, I think most of us are less surprised to see Rashard leave than we were to see Ray Allen dealt a few days ago.
Lewis' departure has been speculated for months now, with Orlando being the most likely destination, and when the Magic declined to contact Darko Milicic about his impending contract negotiations, the writing was on the wall - the perennial also-rans were going strong for Lewis.
After dinner with club officials on Sunday, Lewis apparently made the agreement on Monday, and now the Sonics are left without a 22.4 ppg scorer, a player who always seemed to frustrate Sonic fans for what he didn't do, and never pleased us with what he did.
I was reading Harper's a month or two ago, and I came across this quote from E.M. Forster that he wrote in opposition to critics of his friend Samuel Coleridge, a poet who - like Lewis - never seemed to satisfy anyone:
"He seldom did what he or what others hoped, and posterity has marked him as her prey in consequence. She has never ceased to hold up her plump finger to him, and shake it and say that he has disappointed her ... But if one turns on posterity and says, 'Well! what else do you want him to ! Would you rather have Comberbacke as he is or not at all?' she is apt to be silent or to change the conversation."
It's an telling indictment of our relationship with Rashard Lewis. Lewis seldom received recognition for his scoring abilities, or his speed, or his passing, or anything else. Rather, he received criticism for his deficiencies - in rebounding, his defense, his lack of excitement on-court. He was not a leader, not a #1 player, and he never professed to be. Some will argue that in accepting a $15 million per year contract, Lewis should accept the responsibilities of a leader, and that's a fair argument.
But I would counter that what would you expect him to do? If the market will pay him $15 million every year for the next five years, should he turn it down? Would you?
No, Lewis will not be remembered for any great accomplishments in the won-loss column in Seattle, and that, ultimately, was what sealed his fate in this town. In the end, the 6'10" small forward left as he arrived, an unknown quantity with immense potential. Thanks for your efforts, Rashard; we're sorry it just never worked out.