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Sunday, May 1, 2005 - Page updated at 12:27 a.m.

Sonics

Lewis wants role back

Seattle Times staff reporter

Enlarge this photoMARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Rashard Lewis, the Sonics' All-Star forward, isn't happy being a decoy during this playoff series against Sacramento.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Twelve hours later, the fire that roared inside Rashard Lewis had simmered, if only just a little.

No longer did the Sonics' All-Star forward appear agitated and flustered as he did after Friday's 116-104 defeat to the Sacramento Kings in Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.

Before yesterday's practice, he sat on a cushioned seat at Arco Arena with headphones cocked awkwardly on his head. He spoke in a soft, easy-going tone, which was devoid of emotion as he expressed a strong desire to regain his role as a go-to guy for the offense and to stop being a decoy for others.

"It's most definitely frustrating," Lewis said. "It was cool when we were winning, but I guess when you lose it makes it a little more frustrating. I can do it any day as long as we're winning ballgames.

"Last night I was in a situation where I couldn't help my team to try to win a ballgame. Couldn't get no offense going. Couldn't really get no rhythm going. The post-up is not working. They double-team me every time I catch it on the block."

Lewis, whose team leads 2-1 in the best-of-seven series before tonight's game, suggested his teammates give him the ball more often and for coach Nate McMillan to diagram different schemes to make him effective.

"I feel like we need to change some plays up or maybe I need to change up, try to come off some screens and get some open jump shots," he said. "Maybe be a little more aggressive and get to the free-throw line."

After averaging a career-high 20.5 points during the regular season, Lewis is averaging 13 points in the series and has converted 13 of 35 field goals.

His defense hasn't dropped off while holding Sacramento forward Peja Stojakovic in check, but offensively Lewis has been lost.

On Friday night, he attempted just 10 shots and made two.

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Sacramento's double-teaming defense was largely responsible for Lewis' struggles in the first two games, but not so in Game 3.

According to McMillan, the Sonics sank 8 of 15 shots when he touched the ball early in the offense in Games 1 and 2. In similar situations Friday, Lewis received the ball just three times.

"You got to give him touches and we're a little confused with that in the sense that we have some guys who are making some shots and looking for some shots," McMillan said. "But regardless of what Jerome James and some of the other guys have done in Games 1 and 2, they don't become option No. 1. We've got to look to give him the ball.

"It's not so much Jerome as opposed to our guards and what we are looking for. That's been the bread and butter for us all season long and we're not going to change in two games. So he has to get more touches."

McMillan gave those instructions to the Sonics' point guards. Saying it is one thing, however, and completing the task is far more difficult.

"You can't keep everybody happy," reserve Antonio Daniels said. "It's not possible. That's one of the first things I was told as a point guard coming into the league. You can not keep everybody happy. That's just the way it works being a point guard. There's only one ball on the floor and there's five guys."

Thus far, the Sonics have run the offense through Ray Allen, who is averaging a series-high 29 points, and James, whose postseason emergence can aptly be described as a genie being released from the bottle.

Freed from past constraints — many of which were self-imposed — James has given the Sonics a sizable advantage in the post against Kings center Brad Miller, slowed after recovering from a left-fibula fracture.

As such, Lewis has become a sidenote. On Friday, he attempted fewer shots than James (14), Luke Ridnour (14) and Vladimir Radmanovic (11).

"Who are our main options on this team? That doesn't change just because of two games in the playoffs," Daniels said. "Rashard is an All-Star. He's been doing it all year long. He remains an option. But sometimes in being an option, you receive more attention."

Most often, Lewis is stationed on the right block, with Stojakovic leaning hard against his hip and Miller lurking nearby.

For three games, he's hardly moved from that spot. Although he's averaging just 1.3 assists, he has passed the ball rather than force a bad shot and oddly enough hasn't gone to the perimeter, where he's attempted just six three-pointers and sank two.

"I might have to catch it out on the wing, be a little more aggressive and take it to the basket," Lewis said. "I might have to do my own thing because I can't do nothing on the post with it."

McMillan admits Lewis' absence from the scoring column in Game 3 wasn't the primary reason for Seattle's defeat. Still, the Sonics spent a sizable portion of yesterday's practice attempting to re-install their All-Star forward into an offense that scored 104 points.

"When you lose a game, you don't want to start worrying about things like that," Daniels said. "Things like who's not getting enough shots? Man, please. Two games ago or one game ago it wasn't an issue. It wasn't an issue. And now one loss creeps in and we didn't play as well as we needed to play on the defensive end and now we're talking about other issues.

"We just need to play. Don't let none of this negative stuff creep into what we're trying to accomplish ... because it's a much bigger picture than just Game 3."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Rashard's drop-off
Rashard Lewis is averaging 13 points per game in the postseason, after averaging 20.5 during the regular season. His game-by-game numbers vs. Sacramento:
# FGM-A 3-pt. Pts.
Game 1 8-13 1-2 18
Game 2 3-12 1-2 12
Game 3 2-10 0-2 9

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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