If you asked veteran Ray Allen about resiliency in basketball, he would tell you that it’s the bad stuff that sticks. It’s the needle in an athlete’s side, forcing them to work harder to quiet the naysayers.
If you can’t run, ride or lift anymore, you think of the negative to push you harder.
There have been nothing but question marks about the future of Allen’s two-time teammate, Rashard Lewis.
Last season, Lewis started just 15 games with Washington before he was replaced by a rookie.
After two procedures to remedy issues with the 33-year-old’s knees, the forward was as uncertain about his own expectations as the naysayers were.
“It was more frustrating than anything because a lot of people had probably written me off,” Lewis said. “A lot of people said I was done, but in the back of my mind, I knew I had a lot of basketball left.”
Allen wasn’t one of those people. He saw his teammate, four years his junior, build himself into the player he is today against the odds while the pair played together in Seattle.
“You can never judge a person’s heart,” Allen said. “You don’t know it until it’s being tested.”
Lewis’ legs weren’t what they used to be when he and Allen signed with the Heat in July. For Lewis, it was a test he challenged himself to ace.
“I didn’t know where I was going to end up at and how I was going to feel,” Lewis said. “Not having my legs under me [at training camp] and struggling a bit was more nerve-racking because I wanted to come in and make an impact right away.”
Finding his footing in his role on the bench with the talent-rich Heat has been encouraging for the coaching staff, and it shows in Lewis’ production. Dropping to an average of 15.6 minutes per game with the Heat, Lewis is shooting a career-high 53.6 percent from three-point range.
“I feel like I almost have to make every shot,” he said. “When I miss a shot or two, I’m putting more pressure on myself than anything. I think that coming into the season with the mind-set that I have to value the minutes that I get and be productive, that’s helped me.”
Although he didn’t play because of a cold in Wednesday night’s victory against Milwaukee, it wasn’t anything that a few days of rest couldn’t solve. Lewis has learned his lessons about the importance of his health.
“I was one of those guys that always lifted upper body and didn’t focus a lot on lower body, but it catches up to you,” he said, nursing the cold with hot tea.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is encouraged by Lewis’ progress, noting that he wanted to come into the season with patience for his forward.
Even now, he doesn’t know if Lewis will reach his “real game rhythm” for another two or three months.
While the two veterans find a comfortable place on the Heat roster, Allen can respectfully speak for Lewis’ track record on the court.
“When you’re going to battle, you always want to know who you’re fighting with,” Allen said. “I’ve seen Rashard in every instance. I always know what I’m dealing with.”