In 2007, chronic underachiever Rashard Lewis signed a six-year, $118-million contract with the Orlando Magic. Then, last December, the Magic unloaded Lewis onto the Washington Wizards in exchange for their own chronic underachiever, Gilbert Arenas. Arenas had a six-year, $111-million contract at the time. Four years later, there was a lockout, and no one lived happily ever after, because there was no pro basketball.
But, OK, there is a little bit more to the story. It was right around 2007, you may remember, when NBA owners began unloading cash and long-term contracts onto every player imaginable. Lewis and Arenas were, infuriatingly enough, included in that destructive path. But last week, Lewis gently reminded ESPN's J.A. Adande that he can't really be blamed for his contract:
"You sign me to a deal, you think I'm going to say, ‘No, I deserve $50 [million] instead of $80 [million]?'" Lewis said. "I'm like, ‘Hell, yeah.' I'm not going to turn it down. You can't blame the players. If anything, we don't negotiate the deal. We've got agents that negotiate the deals with the team. Y'all need to go talk to the teams and the agents."
Fair point (although he could have addressed whether or not he was responsible for his decline in offensive output): A lockout is entirely different from a players' strike. Lewis's contract is part of the reason we're without pro basketball right now, but then again, so is every insane NBA contract the owners offered players during that no-rules era. We might even celebrate Lewis's self-awareness—he knows just how ludicrous it is that he'll be the second-highest paid player in the league next season (only Kobe will earn more).
With that in mind, he told Michael Lee of the Washington Post yesterday, he's "willing to sacrifice":
"I'm willing to sacrifice my salary to get a fair deal," Lewis said after playing a game with Washington Wizards teammates John Wall, Jordan Crawford and JaVale McGee here at the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series. "It's only fair."
"I thought my agent did a good job of negotiating my contract, and at the time I was coming out of Seattle, averaging 23 points, playing well. It was perfect timing for me," Lewis continued. "At the same time, I understand the owners don't want to overpay players, but you've got to do better negotiating. Try your best to save money."
It's too late for that fairytale, unfortunately—but it is at least refreshing to hear the word "sacrifice" come from one side of the table.