After Seattle drafted Kevin Durant and then traded for Jeff Green last Thursday evening, it became crystal clear that the Sonics were gently nudging Rashard Lewis out the free agent door. Okay, so it was more like a running shove, but Lewis looks like he might have found his way into a perfect situation because of it.
Lewis has agreed to a “maximum contract” with the Orlando Magic and will round out a trio of budding superstars with Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. No terms of the deal can be announced until July 11, but it will either be a five-year deal as a free agent or it could become a sign-and-trade to allow for a sixth year with an expected income of $15 million per season. While the money is an incredible perk, the real signing bonus for Lewis will be the fact that his seasons will now extend well beyond the 82nd game of the year. No more struggling to stay afloat out west amongst all the elite big men that continually take Seattle’s lunch money. In the Eastern Conference, on a young team overflowing with potential, Lewis’ Magic will be consistently in the running with powerhouses like the Pistons, Bulls, Cavs and Heat.
If other superstars have any desire to compete for a championship, they’d be smart to follow Lewis’ lead and head for the land of opportunity. In the Eastern Conference, guys like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett could dominate on a yearly basis with just a little help from the front office in assembling some complimentary pieces. Out West, if you’re not playing for the Spurs, Mavs, Suns, Jazz or Rockets, you’re playing against them and the odds are you’re not getting past all of `em come playoff time. Seattle and Portland might think they have a bright future ahead of them and they do have a brighter future for sure, but they still have a long way to go before they catch any of the conference’s elite (SA, DAL, PHO). Put Greg Oden or Kevin Durant in Boston, Atlanta or Milwaukee and they could almost immediately compete for a conference crown.