Sonics, Magic complete sign-and-trade for Rashard Lewis

Updated: July 12, 2007, 11:01 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A few minutes before Rashard Lewis was formally announced as the newest member of the Orlando Magic, the high-scoring forward donned his white-and-blue uniform and made his way through the team's practice facility.

"Feeling good," Lewis said, stopping to shake hands with well-wishers. "Feeling good."

That's no surprise, considering he'd just received a six-year contract worth more than $110 million with the Magic and an opportunity he coveted to play with All-Star center Dwight Howard on a team that Lewis believes could quickly become a major factor in the Eastern Conference.

Lewis formally joined the Magic on Wednesday, leaving the Seattle SuperSonics after nine seasons when the teams completed a sign-and-trade deal. The Magic sent Seattle a conditional second-round pick, while the SuperSonics earned a trade exception believed to be in the $9 million range.

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Associated PressThere's magic in the air as Rashard Lewis, flanked by Orlando GM Otis Smith, left, and coach Stan Van Gundy, airs his new threads.

"We set out at the start of free agency to get a big-time player, someone who could score the basketball," Magic general manager Otis Smith said. "We targeted that guy and we got that guy."

Lewis averaged a career-best 22.4 points last season for Seattle, where he spent his first nine years after jumping straight to the NBA from high school and going early in the second round of the 1998 draft. He's averaged more than 20 points in each of the last three seasons, and is the SuperSonics' career leader in 3-point field goals with 973.

He wanted to leave Seattle because he believes the Sonics are "starting over," and began scouting out teams that he felt were a piece or two away from being title contenders. Orlando has long been atop his list.

"They're a young, talented team that ... has nowhere to go but up," the 27-year-old Lewis said. "I feel like I'm still young and still peaking, improving as a player and I can grow with this group of guys."

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Lewis agreed to terms with the Magic earlier this month, yet no deal could be closed until Wednesday, the first day that the league's free agent moratorium was lifted. The pact with Orlando originally was for five years, but the sign-and-trade allowed an extra year to be worked into the contract.

Either way, Lewis said he knew the deal would get done.

"I already knew where my heart was," Lewis said. "My decision was probably made even before these guys put a contract out there."

Still, teams continued wooing him, even into Wednesday. Lewis said the Houston Rockets sent a personalized jersey to his door, but he never wavered on his desire to form a solid 1-2 punch with Howard in Orlando.

"I don't know if the formula of a great perimeter player and a great inside guy has failed very often," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Those are always very good teams. There may be other ways to do it, but the most tried-and-true formula in this league is to have one great perimeter player and one great inside player."

That combo should be together for a long time; the Magic will announce an $85 million, five-year extension with Howard on Thursday.

"It really makes our roster very, very good," Van Gundy said. "And even more than that, what this says to me and what our organization has done with Rashard shows me and should show everyone out there how committed this organization is to winning and winning a championship."

Lewis called the Western Conference the "juggernaut of the NBA," and most observers wouldn't argue that that side of the league -- with Phoenix, Dallas and reigning league champion San Antonio, among others, leading the way -- is superior to most teams in the East, where LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers made a mildly surprising run to the finals this past season.

And Lewis said watching James lead the Cavs out of the East only further cemented his belief that the Magic could quickly ascend into contention, something he just didn't think would be possible if he remained in Seattle.

"What's different from us and Cleveland?" Lewis said. "I feel like we're going to have a chance to maybe even get to the finals next season."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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