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Magic experimenting with lineup changes in camp

- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - The typical makeup of a power forward for most NBA teams is a big and bulky body, a player with the frame to bang around the basket and perhaps toss in a mid-range jumper.

Then there's Rashard Lewis and the Orlando Magic.

A natural small forward, Lewis has spent the past three seasons in Orlando mostly starting at power forward. The switch allowed him to stretch the floor as one of the league's best 3-point shooters and, at a lanky 6-foot-10, offer enough size to guard opponents in the post _ an ability that made the Magic a tough matchup.

Now all that might soon change.

For a team with an almost identical roster as a year ago, Orlando is working hard on some different looks. The biggest being with Lewis, who Magic coach Stan Van Gundy plans to experiment with at small forward.

"I think it gives us more size on the floor if we do that," Van Gundy said after the Magic's first training camp practice Tuesday. "He can get into his post-up game more. We don't lose any shooting on the floor. The concern with him playing the three is never at the offensive end."

It's defense that would be tricky.

In a matter of months, Lewis would go from bumping with big men such as Boston's Kevin Garnett or Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol to chasing Miami's LeBron James or Mike Miller around the perimeter.

"It's most definitely a big change," Lewis said.

But he's perfectly fine with the swap _ in fact, he would rather play small forward.

Lewis always has felt more comfortable at small forward, a position he played nine seasons in Seattle. Van Gundy even told him during their exit meeting last season, Lewis said, that the coach planned to take a shot at the switch.

Lewis has trimmed some weight _ about 10 pounds, although he wouldn't divulge the exact figures _ this offseason and worked on his quickness, agility and footwork preparing for the transition.

"I don't want to say I can do it. It's going to be a work in progress. It's going to take some time. Nothing happens overnight. And that's why it's good to be in camp, good to be in drills and try this stuff now," he said.

Any shift with Lewis would essentially remold Orlando's offensive philosophy.

Lewis at power forward is what made the Magic such a defensive nightmare, surrounding All-Star center Dwight Howard with four potent 3-point shooters. But even with such success, it also was a reason they fell short.

The Lakers bullied and bruised the Magic's front line in the NBA finals in 2009, and Boston did the same in the Eastern Conference finals last season. The Celtics went as far as face-guarding Lewis with Garnett and forcing Orlando to play without him.

"It was frustrating more than anything. He pretty much shadowed me everywhere I went on the court," Lewis said. "They did a great job. They're a great defensive team, and they took me out of that series."

So for now, the Magic are mixing it up.

With Lewis at his natural position, Orlando would likely put Brandon Bass at power forward _ as it did during the portion of Tuesday's scrimmage open to reporters _ to give Howard another big body inside. Van Gundy also is exploring other lineups he has only used on occasion, such as playing backup center Marcin Gortat alongside Howard or Vince Carter with fellow shooting guard J.J. Redick.

"Why not?" Carter said. "This is the time to really figure it out. Once it gets to the real deal, you kind of have an idea of the direction you want to go against particular teams. So we mine as well be prepared for it and be ready when it gets here."

At the very least, the idea is to add another element besides Orlando's shoot-every-outside-shot strategy.

The Magic believe Lewis gives them an advantage posting up, a move that works even better against undersized small forwards. The biggest factor in whether they make the move permanent for the regular season, Van Gundy said, will be if Lewis can be effective defensively against quicker players.

"It's a different set of expectations," Van Gundy said. "But we're going to give him a lot of time there."

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