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Date-Appropriate Musings on Rashard Lewis

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Because one can render today's date as 09-09-09, I thought it fitting for the purposes of this site to discuss the Orlando Magic's own number 9, Rashard Lewis. Despite never having worn the number before in his career--he wore 43 in high school and 7 with the Seattle SuperSonics--Lewis has apparently taken quite a liking to it since joining the Magic, because it's all over his website, which invites visitors to "Meet RL9," "Interact with the RL9 Community," and so forth.

Generally, the first thing anyone mentions with regard to Lewis is his whopper of a contract. The most recent example comes from Kelly Dwyer, who named the Magic's awarding Lewis a maximum contract--worth $118 million over 6 years--the 10th-worst free agency signing of the decade. Another popular topic of discussion is his testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, for which he received a 10-game suspension from the NBA. Finally, he's played almost exclusively at power forward for Orlando's quirky, three-point-oriented offense, thus giving some NBA observers license to call him "soft."

To recap, arguably the three most widely known facts about Lewis paint him as overpaid, a cheat, and a ninny. Which is quite obviously a shame, because regardless of his wealth or poor judgement in selecting a dietary supplement, Lewis is a damn good basketball player. Almost every NBA fan can tell you that Lewis has a maximum contract; few can tell you that he became just the third player in history to sink 220-pus three-pointers in consecutive seasons, or that he'll likely sink enough treys this year to crack the top-10 all-time list, or that he's among one of the league's best defensive power forwards despite only just learning to play the position.

Those individual recognitions and awards don't adequately explain how crucial he is in the larger, team-wide context. He spaces the floor for Dwight Howard, provides kick-out options for creative ballhandlers on the drive, and creates for himself better than one might think; it's simplistic to view Lewis as strictly a stand-still shooter. Moreover, Lewis' positional versatility enables coach Stan Van Gundy to play several different offensive styles.

Let's open up the comments for your thoughts on Rashard. Some icebreakers: In which ways do we underrate or overrate him? How, if ever, can he ever justify his maximum contract? Could the Magic succeed without him? Which play of his is most memorable to you?