Depending on whom you ask -- like NBA fans in Houston -- in a
perfect world, Rashard Lewis would be starring with the Rockets. But fans in
Seattle would probably say things are perfect right now with Lewis playing with the Sonics.
Following a stellar career at Alief Elsik High School in Texas, Lewis was
passed over in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft, despite a promise by
the Rockets to select him with one of their three first-round picks.
Instead, Lewis fell into the second round, where Seattle gobbled him up with
the 32nd overall pick.
After suffering through an injury-riddled rookie season, and a dues-paying
second season, Lewis had his breakthrough last year.
Given the chance to start by Paul Westphal, the 22-year-old showed
tremendous athleticism and a superb outside shot that kept him in the
Lewis was second on the team in scoring (14.8 ppg), minutes (34.9),
rebounding (6.9 rpg) and 3-point shooting percentage (43.2) and was
among the team leaders in field-goal percentage (48.0).
His all-around play inspired comparisons to Orlandošs Tracy McGrady and
impressed current Sonics head coach Nate McMillan so much that he named Lewis
co-captain with Gary Payton heading into this season, replacing Vin Baker.
As Lewis grows into his 6-foot-10 frame, his upside is directly linked to the
future of the up-and-coming Sonics, who currently have 10 players on
their roster with three years of NBA experience or less.
In Houston, meanwhile, Rockets brass has to believe that Hakeem Olajuwon
Isn't the only big one that got away.
-- Jon Cooper, Special to CNNSI.com