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Rashard Lewis answers Spoelstra's call in the Finals

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Once thought of as nothing more than a bench player at this point in his career, Lewis has now found himself in the core starting pack for the Finals.

Andy Lyons

The NBA Draft for most young athletes is a dream come true, a moment to marinate in and enjoy. However if you’re able to cast your mind back to the 1998 NBA draft you’d be reminded of an anxious young man waiting unselected in the Greenroom. There, an 18-year old Rashard Lewis stood crying on national television. Originally touted to be one of the early first round picks, instead he had to endure an excruciating wait until he was selected as the third pick in the second round.

There were no "Shardnado" or "Shardattack" references being tossed around then.

Fast forward 16 years and we have a very different man on our TV. Sunday night, Lewis was one of the main reasons why the Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs 98-96, alongside an aggressive Big 3 he scored 14 points continuing on with his newfound consistency on the court. Often previously regarded as nothing more than a bench warmer, Lewis has been a key role player for the Heat in both the Eastern Conferece and the NBA Finals. After months of shuffling through Miami’s deep roster, coach Erik Spoelstra has been opting for more of Lewis over Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem.

And in Game 2 there he was again, despite not playing as well as he had against the Indiana Pacers, Lewis was again starting in his second Finals game against the Spurs, only this time the Spurs felt his impact.

"Might look easy from the outside for veteran players to sacrifice and give up minutes." said Spoelstra post game.

"They could probably get more other places but they understand the big picture and what this team is built for.  Rashard at times this year wasn't playing, but he kept himself ready.  And you can't just step into an environment if you're not putting in hours and hours of time behind the scenes".

He hit two 3-pointers in the second half, both of which were shots that put the Heat back in the lead. Overall, Lewis did what Spoelstra asks of his role players to do. He rotates on defense, he allows the Heat the versatility of going small, and his ability to shoot from the outside allows them to keep the floor spread.

"Obviously he's top 10 in all 3 pointers made, he spreads the floor, he's a veteran guy who knows if you don't get a shot you know how to get to the next play" said Dywayne Wade in an interview with NBA TV.

"Defensively he's a great warrior," Wade concluded.

James was also singing his praise for Lewis and the experience he brings to Miami.

"Rashard has been huge for us ever since he's been inserted into our starting lineup, from the Indiana series.

"He's been in this position before. He's been to the Finals with Orlando Magic. He's been in huge playoff games, and his experience and ability to knock down shots helps us out a lot. It spreads the floor for us, and every time he catches the ball, we tell him just to shoot it. Don't think about nothing else besides shooting the ball, and we live with his results." James said.

Lewis is a free agent at the end of this season. His resurgence as a productive role player in this league now gives his career options that weren't previously there. He could either move into a more prominent role with a new team or he can keep building on his role within the Heat.