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News » Lewis' suspension puts Magic in tough spot

Lewis' suspension puts Magic in tough spot

Lewis' suspension puts Magic in tough spotORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Just peeking inside the medicine cabinet these days gives Rashard Lewis chills. He won't even take headache medicine. He won't take anything, really, without approval.

Being suspended by the NBA for the first 10 games of this season after testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone has made the Orlando Magic All-Star forward nervous about everything he ingests.

"I don't take anything except water now," Lewis said. "I'm scared to even take Advil."

The positive test has done more than make Lewis a little fearful.

His suspension presents plenty of challenges for a revamped Magic team looking to develop chemistry and make it back to the NBA finals. Not an easy task for a franchise with so many new parts.

The Magic have been shuffling lineups through the first week of the preseason. Not only is Orlando trying to get players tuned up for when it counts, its searching for how it will get through those first 10 games without Lewis.

They haven't found an answer yet.

"The exhibition games are in some ways more important for us this year than they have been since I've been here because we've got to figure a lot of things out," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We're going to play a lot of different combinations, so it's going to be very hard for us early on to get into any kind of rhythm where we play the game really well for long periods of time."

Getting Lewis ready is another matter.

He is still allowed to play in preseason games and practice with the team during his suspension. Lewis will travel with the Magic on the road but has to be out of the arena three hours before tipoff.

Lewis might not be able to tweet or blog live like teammate Dwight Howard did when the All-Star center was suspended for a playoff game last year because of the league's new rules. More likely, Lewis said he will probably just relax at home or the hotel and cheer on his team.

"It's going to be weird," he said. "I don't know exactly how I'm going to feel. I'm sure it's going to feel weird, wishing I could be there to help them out and support them. But I can't."

Howard, who was suspended for the Game 6 clincher in the opening round against Philadelphia for elbowing Samuel Dalembert last season, said watching from afar can be a hopeless feeling.

"I felt like I was a kid again watching my team play," Howard said. "I had a lot of fun, but I just missed being around my team and it hurt not being able to help them."

Lewis has said he took an over-the-counter supplement late last season that included a substance he did not realize was banned by the NBA. He will be docked about $1.6 million of his $18 million salary this season.

Lewis' suspension could cost the Magic in the standings, with Cleveland and Boston challenging the defending Eastern Conference champions with big offseason moves of their own. Lewis also will miss the team's first game against the Cavaliers, who Orlando upset in the conference finals last year.

But Orlando is trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Brandon Bass, acquired as a free agent from Dallas, will likely start in Lewis' place. That also gives extra opportunities for small forwards Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus to make an impression.

"It isn't as bad as the gloom and doom that some people are painting," Magic general manager Otis Smith said. "The good could outweigh the bad. He still has 72 games, and he's donating a lot of money to charity."

Lewis hasn't taken anywhere near the criticism as professional football and baseball players have for failed drug tests.

Even though he is only the sixth player to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs since the NBA began testing in 1999, Lewis said the reaction has been mostly positive. Most people, he said, believe that he wasn't intentionally trying to gain an advantage and it was merely an accident.

Part of the reason Lewis also hasn't taken much criticism is because he is a lanky, 6-foot-10 forward, even though the supplement he tested positive for contained the steroids precursor DHEA. But such products can, in some cases, do more for recovery and energy than add muscle.

Lewis doesn't believe it did any of that, and he wants to prove this year that it didn't change things.

"I've always been a real skinny guy and don't feel any different now than before," Lewis said. "The only thing that bothers me is just being suspended. I think the league knows I made an honest mistake."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 9, 2009


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