Miami Heat's Reclamation Projects Continue Paying Off

Ethan SkolnickContributor IIMarch 30, 2017

USA Today

ORLANDO -- Rashard Lewis had earned a little razzing.

When you have the sort of game that the veteran did Saturday—18 points in a spot start for Shane Battier—you get a spot in the Winner's Circle with Jason Jackson. And you become a target for an amusing interruption, known as the video bomb.

“I kept looking over my shoulder, just to see which direction it was coming from,” Lewis said later. “But it never came.”

No, it didn't, but that didn't mean his Heat teammates didn't appreciate his performance in a 110-94 victory, especially since it came in a place where he played more of a starring role for three-plus seasons. It's just that they had even greater appreciation for what awaited them in the locker room: gumbo, chicken and cake, courtesy of Ray Allen's mother Flo.

Nothing, after all, beats free, especially when the food is better than the usual fare.

When it comes to signing NBA players, there's no such thing as free—every acquisition has a cost, every player has a price. But the closest you can come is the minimum contract.

Sep 30, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Greg Oden (20) during media day at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Riley keeps scooping those players off the NBA's buffet, and they're all leaving a pleasant taste; well, all but the one (Greg Oden) still stashed in the freezer. Lewis, Michael Beasley, Chris Andersen and Roger Mason, Jr., are due to earn a combined $5.1 million this season, if Beasley and Mason stick around past the Jan. 7 guarantee deadline.

And all of them, in one way or another, have allowed Erik Spoelstra greater flexibility to mix, match and rest, as he tries to get a veteran roster to the games that most matter, in the best possible shape.

Saturday, Mason wasn't needed, with Dwyane Wade surprisingly choosing to play on the first night of a back-to-back (and scoring 20), and Andersen got just a little less run (15 minutes) than usual, not as needed with Chris Bosh (9 of 9 shooting) playing so well.

Jan 4, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic small forward Maurice Harkless (21) defends Miami Heat small forward Michael Beasley (8) during the second quarter of the game at the Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

But, in Battier's absence, Beasley and Lewis were big.

Beasley, consistently getting to his lethal left hand for close runners, had 13 points on just seven field goal attempts. Defensively, he wasn't especially instinctive—he rarely is—but his effort was more than adequate.

Jan 4, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Heat power forward Rashard Lewis (9) defends Orlando Magic small forward Maurice Harkless (21) during the second half of the game at the Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

And Lewis, two nights after being bumped behind Beasley in the rotation against Golden State, came out firing—his ability to stretch the floor allowing the Heat to maintain their ideal spacing. He had six shots in the first quarter, same as LeBron James, and made four of those, to one for James.

"I wanted to be aggressive," Lewis said. "Especially after I missed my first three, I was able to get to the rim and get a layup. And I think that's what really got me going."

In the third quarter, Lewis scored eight points and had two steals.

In the fourth, he had a steal, and a block.

His legs looked live, as he played 31 minutes, his second-highest total of the season. He may not be who he was for the Magic, but he's come quite a ways from the guy who, due to bad knees, looked done while in Washington.

"I'm focusing on the defensive end of the floor, so I was excited about those steals," Lewis said, smiling.

So are the Heat, when they look at those who line their roster.