Denton: Nelson, Lewis Resent Howard's Comments

By John Denton
March 6, 2013

MIAMI – When Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis talked over the phone on Wednesday, much of the conversation revolved around the comments that Dwight Howard had about his former teammates while playing for the Orlando Magic.

While Nelson, a teammate of Howard’s for eight seasons and still the longest-tenured Magic player, chose to shy away from the war of words, Lewis – now a member of the Miami Heat – didn’t hold back about Howard’s ``disrespectful’’ comments.

During a lengthy question-and-answer session with a Los Angeles television station that aired on Tuesday, Howard said: ``I always tell people, ‘Hey, my team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face.’’

Lewis, whom the Magic acquired in free agency in 2007 for $128 million, did not like the assertion that the team was filled with castoffs and unwanted parts. After all, Lewis said, those Magic teams made the playoffs in each of Howard’s final six seasons in Orlando – currently the longest streak in the Eastern Conference. The Magic also won 59 games in 2008-09 and 2009-10, teams that reached the NBA Finals and the Eastern Conference Finals.

``It’s just strange. If anything, (Howard) should be focused on playing with the Lakers and getting those guys into the playoffs. I think it’s disrespectful more than anything because we helped Dwight become the type of player that he was,’’ Lewis said. ``Of course, he’s a talented big man and has all of the skills in the world, and he’s a very dominant big man, but not only his teammates as in me, Jameer (Nelson), Hedo Turkoglu and down to (Mickeal) Pietrus down to Stan Van Gundy as well as Otis Smith, they put that team together to be around him. So it’s definitely disrespectful.’’

But Lewis was just getting going. He was most offended by the comments that took shots at Nelson and the ones that seemed to imply that the Magic were a one-man team.

``(Magic owner Rich DeVos) most definitely spent a lot of money to put that team together to try to win a championship and to try to help Dwight. They went out and got the guys that he wanted because they really did listen to him,’’ Lewis said. ``For him to turn around and say something like that … everybody on those teams were very close friends. Jameer Nelson, of all people. I don’t care about a lot of that stuff and I’ve got thick skin because I’ve been criticized since I came out of high school. But him and Jameer are supposed to be best friends. Jameer kept his mouth shut for a long time. You hear him say stuff like Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, this guy and that guy and Jameer is the one who took us to the NBA Finals even though he got injured.

``We made a good run,’’ Lewis continued. ``I mean, hell, look at those banners hanging up in the stands. They don’t say `Dwight Howard’ on them; it was a full roster, coaching staff and Otis Smith that helped. Everybody should get a piece of the help because it wasn’t just one guy who did everything.’’

Nelson, who played with Howard for eight seasons, refused to wade into the war of words with the now-Los Angeles Lakers center. But clearly Nelson was bothered by the assertion that some of the most successful Magic teams in history were lacking in talent.

``If that’s how he feels that’s how he feels,’’ Nelson said. ``I’ll be less of a man to continue to comment on a guy who isn’t even on my team right now and what he is saying about my team in the past.’’

PRAISE FOR VAUGHN: It didn’t take Miami coach Erik Spoelstra long while scouting the Magic to see that the team is well-prepared and playing exceptionally hard under first-year coach Jacque Vaughn. Spoelstra said there’s no doubt in his mind that Vaughn – the NBA’s youngest coach at 38 years old – will find success in coaching because of his ``winning qualities.’’

``He has that X-factor of winning qualities and a winning personality. You put that together with a work ethic like his and you are going to have success,’’ Spoelstra said. ``You go all the way back to when Jacque was in high school, his teams won at a major level. In college, the same thing. And he was on so many winning teams in the pros. You see that long enough, with a guy like Jacque Vaughn or a player like we have in Shane Battier, and you realize that it’s not a coincidence.’’

Miami superstar shooting guard Dwyane Wade played against Vaughn early in his NBA career, and he said that it’s neat to see a former player make the transition from playing to coaching.

``I don’t really see the opposite coach too much. But when you see that with Jacque, you understand how it works in the NBA,’’ Wade said of taking note of a coach on the sidelines who he played against. ``With certain players that you play against, you look up and they are in a suit coaching. That’s a good thing for our game because players who have played know the game and it’s great they get the opportunity to be coaches. I’m happy for Jacque that he’s been able to become a coach.’’

ETC: Howard will make his first return to Orlando since forcing the trade to Los Angeles on Tuesday when the Lakers face the Magic. Lewis plans on watching it all unfold on the NBA Ticket. Said Lewis: ``Oh, I’ll be watching. I’ll be glued to the TV.’’ … Lewis, who played in Orlando from 2007-11, was complimentary of Orlando’s fans and organization. Said Lewis: ``I still feel like there’s a piece of Orlando still in me. That’s the only time I’ve ever been to the Finals in my career and it’s something I’ll never forget. I had great times in that span, I loved living there, the fans were great and they treated me with nothing but respect. So even though they are struggling I still find myself watching them every once and a while. I’m still close with Jameer Nelson and some of the staff that’s there. I saw J.J. Redick get traded and I watch Hedo Turkoglu. I just feel like there’s still a piece of Orlando in me for some reason. I feel like I left a mark there and it was the best part of my career in the NBA.’’ … When the Magic and Heat last met in December, Orlando center Nikola Vucevic set the franchise record for rebounds in a game with 29. Vucevic had 18 defensive rebounds and 11 offensive boards. Said Vucevic of the performance: ``It was a fun game because I was getting a lot of offensive rebounds. It was different because we had J.J. (Redick) and the floor was more spread with him shooting more threes. It’s different now.’’ … Heat superstar LeBron James has played in plenty of big games against the Magic while playing in Cleveland and Miami. For the first time in eight years, James is facing a Magic team without Howard in the middle. But James disputed the notion that it was a weird feeling playing the Magic without Howard. Said James: ``It seems like he’s been away from them for a few years now. So it doesn’t feel weird with him gone.’’ … The Magic will be back at the Amway Center on Friday to face the Indiana Pacers. The Magic will play the Philadelphia 76ers at home on Sunday at 6 p.m.

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