Tuesday , Jul , 03 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Rashard Lewis And Orlando Magic Combine Forces; Grant Hill & Darko Milicic Unlikely to Return

Orlando has landed hi-profile free agent Rashard Lewis … The silky forward will improve the Magic both on-and-off the court … But what happens to free agents like Darko Milicic and Grant Hill? … Click here for news and analysis …

ESPN reports that Rashard Lewis has signed with the Orlando Magic:

The NBA’s most sought-after free agent is going to the Magic Kingdom.

Rashard Lewis has given the Orlando Magic a verbal commitment to leave the Seattle SuperSonics and sign a max contract on July 11, according to NBA front-office sources.

That’s the first day free agents are allowed to officially sign new contracts.

Unless a sign-and-trade arrangement is worked out with Lewis’ old team or unless it can otherwise shed payroll between now and July 11, Orlando will have to renounce the rights to restricted free agent Darko Milicic to create the salary-cap space needed to sign Lewis to a deal believed to be in the $15 million-a-year range.

Earlier Monday, Magic big man Dwight Howard had shown great interest in Lewis joining the club.

"I’m very excited we’d have a chance to play together," he said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "He’s a wonderful athlete, great person and would help our team a lot."

Howard said he and Lewis shared a "chemistry" during games, even joking about their similar unorthodox free-throw styles.

"Hopefully, he’ll like it here," he said, according to the paper.

Lewis has spent his entire nine-year career with the Sonics. He didn’t attend college and was taken in the second round of the 1998 draft but worked himself into an All-Star in the 2004-05 season. Last season, Lewis averaged 22.4 points and 6.6 rebounds, but Seattle didn’t make the playoffs for the second straight year and fourth in the last five.

This would mark the second major departure for the Sonics after the trade that sent guard Ray Allen to Boston. The team is now committed to building around Kevin Durant who the Sonics took second overall in the June 28 draft.

My Quick Take: Billy Donovan who? The Orlando Magic moved past the Donovan fiasco by signing sought-after free agent Rashard Lewis. But will Lewis help the Magic move past mediocrity and become competitive? I believe so.

Inside-outside basketball is simple, but effective. If opponents double-team Dwight Howard, Lewis has room to shoot or swing the ball to an open teammate. Howard and Lewis’ offensive skills will keep opposing defenses honest. Many teams have won NBA Titles using this basic high-low system.

Lewis makes the Magic more athletic. He’s long, lean, and quick. His physical gifts will help Orlando on both ends of the floor. However, I would like to see Lewis use his athleticism to attack the basket more instead of relying on his outside shot.

Public perception played a role in this transaction. Lewis’ signing is big news and Magic fans will quickly forget about the Donovan flip-flop. This transaction also bolsters Orlando‘s beleaguered image around the league.

Collateral Damage: Darko Milicic and Grant Hill. ESPN correctly reports that Orlando will be hard-pressed to re-sign Milicic. Just a thought: Darko would look awfully good next to fellow Serb Nenad Krstic in New Jersey. The Nets would have to get creative with the salary cap though.

I don’t see Hill returning to Orlando-even with Lewis in the mix. Look for the classy veteran to sign with Phoenix or Detroit.

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