By Dylan Barmmer
He stands a towering, sinewy 6-foot-10.
He can step in and contribute at either forward position.
He has the knowledge, toughness and vision that can only be gained from 14 years of NBA experience.
He ranks eighth in NBA history -- and fifth among active players -- in made 3-point field goals (with 1,690 and counting).
He has averaged over 16 points and 5 rebounds (16.1 and 5.6, to be exact) while playing for three teams in 934 NBA regular-season games.
He has been an NBA All-Star twice, and played in the NBA Finals once (knocking LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers out of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals as the star scorer for the Orlando Magic).
And now, Rashard Lewis is ready for the next chapter of his highly decorated and compelling career -- as a member of the 2012 World Champion Miami HEAT.
The HEAT didn't need to tweak too much following a blistering run to the franchise's second World Championship. After all, LeBron James won Regular Season and NBA Finals MVP honors while franchise face Dwyane Wade and versatile, valuable big man Chris Bosh helped stoke a red-hot run that culminated in a five-game triumph over the talented young Oklahoma City Thunder.
Of course, life in today's NBA requires constant roster evolution, management and flexibility. So a few key pieces were added, with NBA all-time 3-point marksman Ray Allen and fellow silky smooth sharpshooter Lewis leading the way.
Each veteran brings an array of proven skills, experience and insight to the already deep HEAT roster. But only Lewis possesses the rarest of rare blends of size and shooting ability. Not only is Lewis 6-foot-10, but he possesses a massive wingspan, and he's a career 45.4% shooter from the field, including 38.8% from long distance.
It's not too many near-7-footers who can step back and knock down clutch 3-pointers. It's even fewer who can do so with enough accuracy, consistency and variety to rank among the Top 10 long-distance snipers in NBA history.
But that's exactly what the 33-year-old Lewis has done during a remarkable career that saw him enter the NBA as a second-round draft pick of the Seattle SuperSonics (who later became the Thunder) straight out of Houston's Alief Elsik High School in 1998. Lewis went on to play nine seasons as a teammate of Allen's in Seattle, averaging over 20 points a game in each of the final three, including a career-high 22.4 in 2006-07.
The following season, his first as a member of the Magic following a lucrative signing as a free agent, Lewis canned a career-best 226 3-pointers. A year later, Lewis led the NBA with 220 3-point field goal makes, and helped budding center (and new Los Angeles Laker) Dwight Howard lead Orlando to the 2009 NBA Finals, where they fell to the Lakers in five games. It was during that postseason run that Lewis helped the Magic knock off James' Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Lewis went on to star for the Magic for parts of two more years before being traded to the Washington Wizards during the 2010-11 season. Lewis was limited by knee soreness during the lockout-shortened season that saw the HEAT roar to the title, playing in 28 games for Washington in 2012, including 15 starts. Lewis still managed to average 7.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists in just 26.0 minutes per game. He ended up playing in 60 overall games as a Wizard, starting 42 of them.
Now a proud member of the HEAT following his offseason signing, Lewis has patiently worked his way into the mix during the start of 2012-13 preseason play. Erik Spoelstra and his staff have gradually expanded Lewis' reserve role, and he turned in his finest performance yet in a 104-102 win over San Antonio on Oct. 20. Lewis scored a HEAT-high 15 points and added 4 steals and 3 rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench in the comeback win. He drained 6-of-9 field goal attempts, including 3-of-6 from three-point range, and scored 11 of his 15 points during a game-turning 27-point fourth quarter by the HEAT.
In five games off the bench, Lewis has averaged 7.4 points, shooting 13-of-27 from the field, including 6-of-16 from long range. He's also averaged 2.2 rebounds in 19.6 minutes as he begins to find his rhythm and role while adjusting to a new team in a new city. Including two games in Beijing, China during a hectic preseason. Talk about long range...
Lewis' range, ranginess, versatility, experience and team-first attitude certainly make for an attractive package, and Spoelstra and HEAT fans alike are excited to see what the veteran big man with the sweet stroke and unique skill set will bring to the HEAT as they gear up for what promises to be an electrifying title defense. As a new member of a tight-knit, successful and veteran team, Lewis' ideal role and rhythm will take a little time to crystalize, much as we witnessed with point guard Norris Cole during his fascinating rookie season last year.
One thing is for sure -- it will be hard to miss Lewis when he takes the floor for the HEAT.