Denton's Notebook: February 4, 2011

By John Denton
February 4, 2011


WASHINGTON – Still transitioning from one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference (the Orlando Magic) to one of the worst (the Washington Wizards), Rashard Lewis admitted to entering Friday’s game against his former team with a little more buzz than normal.

But he stressed that there’s no animosity whatsoever toward the Magic for trading him away on Dec. 18 for point guard Gilbert Arenas.

``Of course I want to win and beat the team that I was traded from, but at the same time I’m at a point where I’m not going to look on the calendar to see when we play these guys to beat them,’’ Lewis said before facing the Magic for the first time since the Dec. trade. ``There’s no grudges, no bad blood. I’m going to play the game to win. I won’t be out there chest-bumping or looking at (Magic coach) Stan (Van Gundy) or (GM) Otis (Smith) after every basket and giving them the finger, nope nothing like that. I have a great deal of respect for that organization because they gave me a chance to win a championship.’’

Lewis spent the past 3 ½ seasons in Orlando, helping the Magic win 52, 59 and 59 games before this season. He was a major reason why Orlando snapped a 12-year drought without a playoff victory in 2008 and reached the NBA Finals in 2009. He led the NBA in 3-pointers made and attempted the previous three seasons.

``That was one of the hardest trades I’ve ever had to make because I genuinely liked the guy and what he brought to our team,’’ Smith said. ``It was a difficult (phone) call to make and I delayed it as long as I could. He deserves a lot of the credit for the success that we’ve had. We don’t make it to the NBA Finals without him. And I really think when we signed him the rest of the NBA community took us more seriously as contenders. He helped make us a really good team.’’

Lewis said he’s talked over the phone and via text message with Van Gundy twice since the trade. He’s in regular contact with Magic point guard Jameer Nelson. He said uprooting his family was one of the most difficult aspects of the trade, but what he’s missed most is the family atmosphere he had with his Magic teammates.

``Those guys were my family and my best friends. We did everything together and hung out together all the time,’’ said Lewis, who added that he still watches the Magic on television and checks out Orlando’s boxscores online and in the newspaper.

ARENAS BACK TO WASHINGTON: Arenas might have left Washington on bad terms after getting suspended much of last season and benched early on this season, but he was greeted with a warm reception Friday night upon checking into the game late in the first quarter.

About 75 percent of the crowd in the Verizon Center cheered Arenas with many of them standing for the ovation. There were a few boos mixed in, but Arenas acknowledged the crowd with a wave before action resumed.

Arenas didn’t talk to the media before Friday’s game, instead choosing to limit the distractions of coming back to the place where he had his finest NBA seasons. But earlier in the week back in Orlando, Arenas said he hoped for a warm reception from the Wizards faithful. After all, he said he’ll always remember his time in Washington fondly.

``Those are my golden years,’’ Arenas said. ``So, I can’t think of any bad memories. I’ve got to always think of the positive.’’

Arenas vowed that he was prepared if things turned nasty in Washington. He said he’s happily moved onto Orlando and began a new phase of his life.

``At this point, it really doesn’t matter (if he’s booed), because if they boo or cheer I’m gone the next night anyway,’’ Arenas said. ``So, whatever.’’

OTIS AMUSED: Smith said that he chuckled when he heard that LeBron James claimed to be motivated by the GM’s offseason comments before he went out and scored 52 points against the Magic on Thursday night.

James hit 17 of 25 shots and three of five 3-pointers. He put a 23-point barrage on the Magic in the first quarter and made his first 11 attempts before finally missing. What shocked the Magic was that of James’ 25 shot attempts on Thursday, 20 of them were jump shots. And rarely did he miss.

``I’d let LeBron score 52 if all he took were jump shots,’’ Smith said. ``He could score 100 if all he took were jumpers, but I don’t think he could keep making them.’’

James claimed to be motivated by offseason comments by Van Gundy and Smith, questioning his desire to be the leader of a team after he bolted from Cleveland to the Miami Heat. Smith said the Magic employed the right strategy of closing off the lane and forcing James to take jump shots.

``If he’s going to make shots from out there more power to him because all you can do is wave at him,’’ Smith said. ``That’s the way I played Michael (Jordan). If he was going to make those

ETC: The Magic’s flight to Washington was delayed by almost 45 minutes late Thursday night because Arenas got lost on the way to the hangar for the charter flight. Arenas claimed to be talking on the phone and missed the turnoff and instead found himself in the Disney World attractions area. Said Smith: ``We don’t leave anybody. I might fine them, but I won’t leave them.’’ … Smith said keeping Lewis to play with Hedo Turkoglu once again was not an option because he felt that the Magic needed a chance. Turkoglu, acquired from Phoenix in December, thrived in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons while playing with Lewis at the other forward position. Said Smith: ``If we wanted that, we would have left them together (before Turkoglu left for Toronto in 2009). I just thought we needed new personnel, a different mix in the locker room and some more confidence.’’ Smith thinks that Brandon Bass, out with a severely sprained ankle, will return much sooner than the five games he’s projected to miss. Said Smith: ``If anything with him, I worry about him coming back too soon.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.