NBA / Dec 11, 2009 / 3:28 pm

Rashard Lewis didn’t want to play; Van Gundy says it’s no big deal

Rashard Lewis (photo. NBA)

Rashard Lewis (photo. NBA)

There was a moment during last night’s Celtics/Wizards game when Rajon Rondo picked up his second foul late in the second half and Eddie House bounced off the bench to ask Doc Rivers if he should go in for Rondo. TNT’s Mike Fratello praised House for being in-tune enough to realize the dangers of Rondo picking up his third foul before halftime, but Marv Albert (more correctly, I think) speculated House just wanted to get in and get some more shots up.

On the flip side, midway through the second quarter of Jazz/Magic, Rashard Lewis was summoned off the bench by Stan Van Gundy to go in and said, “Nah, I’m good.” (Or something like that.) The incident threatens to spark a mild controversy, but both Lewis — claiming he didn’t want to pick up a third first-half foul or ruin backup PF Ryan Anderson‘s hot streak — and Van Gundy have tried to douse the flames. From the Orlando Sentinel:

“(Lewis) didn’t want to go back in. I wanted to put him back in with six minutes to go in the second quarter and he didn’t want to go back in,” Van Gundy said after the Magic (17-5) had their six-game winning streak broken. “He said it was because he had two fouls, and so if you have a guy who doesn’t want to play, I’m not going to get in an argument and put him back in if he doesn’t want to play at that time.

“He said it was because he had two fouls, and so if you have a guy who doesn’t want to play, I’m not going to get in an argument and put him back in if he doesn’t want to play at that time.

“He said, ‘I’m going back in and be out in three or four minutes and Ryan (Anderson) is playing good.’

“I didn’t have time to get into it. It’s rare and I’ve never had that in the first half of a game. I was a little baffled by it.”

Afterwards, Lewis said, yes, he told Van Gundy he did not want to go back because he picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and that Anderson was rolling. Anderson scored 14 points by halftime after replacing Lewis, Orlando’s highest-paid player at $118 million over six years.

Asked if he was being defiant, Lewis said, “No, hell, no. I was looking at it and Ryan had 14 points and I had two fouls. Let him play.”

However, as the Jazz went on a run a few minutes later and cut into Orlando’s big lead (Utah eventually won the game), Lewis said Van Gundy seemed angry at him.

“He wasn’t pissed at the time,” said Lewis about when he didn’t go in, “but he was pissed when they started making a run. You got to point the finger at something if that’s what you got to point it at. Hey, I don’t give a damn.”

Van Gundy says he isn’t going to make a big deal out of it and recognized Lewis was just trying to be unselfish and think of the team first, but also admitted he sat Lewis longer than usual after the incident because he wasn’t sure if Lewis was “in the right frame of mind” to play. “We need guys who are focused and intense and ready to go,” SVG told reporters.

All told, not much should come of this. Rashard is going to start in Orlando’s next game, he’ll play a lot of minutes, and he’ll get a lot of shots like usual. Van Gundy seems to get into a few overblown spats with his players every year, but as long as he and the Magic are winning, it’s just part of the job.

I did notice that the writer of the Sentinel article seems to have something against Lewis. From randomly mentioning that Lewis has a $118 million contract (that’s like purposely provoking the people who can’t stand how much athletes get paid) to describing one of Lewis’ quotes as a “rambling stream of consciousness,” it looked like an agenda to me. Or else I’m just being extra-defensive of a former Sonic.

UPDATE — On his personal blog today, Rashard gave his side of the story. Here are some excerpts:

* “I know some people out there are going to think there’s a problem there, but I really just think it was heat-of-the-game stuff. And if we had won instead of losing, I doubt this would even be an issue.”

* “I didn’t really think much of it at the time because I really thought I was doing the right thing. We preach sacrificing yourself for the good of the team and I thought that’s what I was doing there because we had the lead and Ryan was shooting so well.”

* “Stan wasn’t even hot about it at the time, but I guess he was after the game. He was mad that we let Utah make a run on us after we got that big lead, but he wasn’t mad at me. But if somebody wants to point a finger and they want to point it at me not wanting to disrupt things in the second quarter, go right ahead. I really don’t give a damn about that.”

* This mess will blow over. I gotta tell you guys, stuff like this happens all the time in NBA locker rooms and on the bench during games. It doesn’t always get out in the public and that’s probably a good thing. We’re a family and sometimes families are going to bicker.”

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  • hahns

    gota side with coach on this one.

    your coach is paid to manage the game- to make changes as he sees fit. its his JOB.

    your job is to perform and do what the coach wants. if you need to adjust to the fact that you got 2 fouls- then you adjust, you dont unilaterally sit yourself.

    and again, svg is right- you need your players to be hyped up to play.

  • Rizwan

    Despite any agenda the writer may have, Rashard, while a good player, is the epitome of the ‘overpaid athelete’.

  • don

    coming from a teammate standpoint rashard did the right unselfish thing…why would you risk picking up your 3rd foul in the 2nd and not be able to play in the 3rd and anderson was unbleievable in tath first half

  • tragicnomore

    the orlando sentinel aka the slant-nel hates the magic and ran shaq out town. they consistently do whatever they can to rile up the fan base against the team. they think it sells papers for them. fuck bianchi dude is a douche

  • lifep

    I don’t care if it’s 1 minute into the 1st quarter and the score is tied 2-2 and Rashard picked up 5th foul!!! If your coach asked you to go in, you go in!!! Imagine Shannon Brown telling Phil Jackson, “nah, I’m good”..that dude would be somewhere overseas playing with Daniel Ewing.

  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    ain’t nothing. I think it’s cool Rashad actually cared enough about a dude being hot that he didn’t want to stop it.

    If something is ever defiant then, like Robet Horry throwing a towel at his coach or Latrell choking his, something more could always be made of it.

    I think this is nothing and VanGundy needs to just play dude regular. NOW if the action repeats itself then clearly you got an issue, but for the first time.

    Don’t sweat the small stuff.

  • gregory

    This is such a non-story. Rashard was trying to be the good teammate, allowing a young player with a hot hand spend more time on the floor. I don’t understand getting on him for it. As someone who isn’t an Orlando fan, I enjoy the faint whiff of smugness in Rashard’s actions as well, like he’s sayiny, “Coach, I’m cool on the bench, I’ll just kill them in the second half.” Only he didn’t and that’s what makes it rich.

    As for Stan Van Gundy letting this story out, I guess he was just answering a question about why Rashard didn’t get back in the first half with two fouls but he should’ve considered the implications. He creates flak for Rashard and himself and potentially loses some support in the clubhouse. In instances like this, the coach has to take the blame for himself just so no story comes out of it.

  • lifep

    Since when is insubordination “small stuff”. Hopefully the incident was an isolated event and not the beginnings of a cancerous growth…

  • Mikey F Baby
  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    insubordination is small stuff as long as it is an isolated event.

    Now like I said if this incident repeats itself then clearly you have a problem. Why even go as far as to call it “insubordination” though.

    I mean ain’t like he was like F*** you, hell naw I ain’t going in. Dude just made a move on behalf of another player who was hot. Thus implicating had he not been hot he would have went in. Plain and simple.

    Plus it ain’t like dude got a history of this type of stuff, so yea I think in the scheme of things this so called “insubordination” is small stuff.

  • Colton

    i think that theres no reason to take sides on this. SVG wanted him in the game, but rashard wanted ryan to get his shine and keep the hot hand. it wasnt a “fuck no coach”, it wasnt disobedience, it was simply him tryin to look out for the good of the team. i wish the starters would have occasionally done that when i had the hot hand comin off the bench. the only thing that i would have a problem with about this story is if stan van gundy was blaming it all on rashard. hes still the coach, he has the final word, if he really wanted to have rashard on the court, he should have asserted himself rather than let rashard call the shots.

  • KCL

    Wow I’m definetly a fan of Rashard but thats selfish for sure. If your coach tells you to go in you do it thats their job. definetly not as bad as pippen not going in cuz he knew he wasn’t taking the shot, but when you are one of the highest paid players on the team thats reason enough to play when your coach says so. Again an example of rashard not acting like the star player he is.

  • QQ

    Wow a little drama for the Magic eh.

    Well, if you’re at 17-5, and one of the best teams in the L, and there’s no ‘drama’ because you’re doing so well, all these small stuff matter eh?

    I’ll take this. Success means haters. Expected.

  • Coop

    This baffles me, frankly. You’re not the coach, son. If you get told to go in, you go in. I’m at pains to use the phrase ‘Prima donna’ generally but that seems appropriate here. Maybe I’ll tell my boss I don’t fancy doing any work on Monday and see what happens.

  • Dragonyeuw

    I can appreciate both sides of the coin. Though I’m tempted to side with the ‘coach says you go in, you go in!’ mindset, one should also question SVG’s coaching strategy at the time. If Ryan Anderson was playing really well, ride it out. Why take him out the game if he’s hot, and risk getting Rashard’s 3rd foul in the first half?