When reporters linked the Miami Heat to then-free agent Rashard Lewis last July, I said he wouldn't fill any of the Heat's needs. I even pondered whether his days as a productive NBA player were over during the preseason.
I have no problem admitting now that I was wrong. Lewis has pleasantly surprised me thus far.
Of course, it's not as if Lewis has suddenly become a better rebounder and defender. He's grabbed a grand total of zero boards in the last two games. Carmelo Anthony seemingly toyed with Lewis whenever he got the mismatch in Miami's lone loss this season. In an ideal world, I'd love for the Heat to have an athletic, young power forward like Kenneth Faried. But the 33-year-old has shown that he can still contribute on the offensive end of the floor. That's certainly more than Lakers fans can say for Antawn Jamison.
Towards the end of the third quarter against the Hawks Friday night, the Heat did something I would've never expected them to do. Miami went to Lewis on three consecutive possessions, even while LeBron James was on the court with him. Lewis made a 3-pointer and then posted up his man and made two turnaround jumpers. To be fair, 6-foot-5 Anthony Morrow defended Lewis on those possessions, but the Heat still felt confident that he would take advantage of the smaller defender in the post.
Lewis' post-up plays have not served as the only reminder for the veteran's days in Seattle this season. Lewis also dunked twice in Miami's win over Brooklyn Wednesday night. For the last few years, Lewis has barely been able to jump high enough for someone to slide a dollar under his feet. He was also barely getting any lift in the preseason, but now has his legs cooperating with him.
Moreover, Lewis has also served to relieve pressure off of Miami's Big Three. During the fourth quarter of Miami's blowout win over the Phoenix Suns Monday, Erik Spoelstra had Dwyane Wade on the floor with four subs: Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem and Lewis. But the offense didn't devolve into Wade-or-bust, which has often been the case over the last two years when only one member of the Big Three is on the court. Cole and Allen found Lewis for open 3s during that quarter. Now Miami can go to Lewis if he has the mismatch for a few possessions and give James, Wade or Bosh a break from carrying the load.
Lewis is actually the fifth-leading scorer on the Heat behind the Big Three and Allen (although Mario Chalmers is probably the fifth-best player). It'll be interesting to see how Lewis performs Sunday against the strong frontline of the Memphis Grizzlies, but Lewis has earned his spot in the rotation with reliable offensive play. I was wrong. Signing him for the veteran's minimum was a good idea.