Rashard Lewis needed a moment.

Actually, he needed a little bit longer. Last week he tried to recall the last time he played meaningful minutes in the fourth quarter.

At first, he couldn't remember. It took a few head scratches before he finally sort of pinpointed it.

"It was last year," Lewis said. "You know, remember in April when the Big Three was sitting out and we had to play?"

The circumstances were as different as Lewis' contributions to the Miami Heat this year. No more garbage time for Lewis, because this is the best he's felt physically since knee problems had him on the verge of retirement two summers ago.

Now healthy, he realizes the right decision was made to continue playing instead of focusing on life after basketball. Even though his minutes have come because of injuries to Udonis Haslem and Ray Allen, Lewis is proving not everyone moves to South Florida to become a retiree.

"It's night and day," Heat forward LeBron James said. "His knee is feeling much better. Obviously when he was in Washington he had an injury that he thought about probably retiring at some point."

Retirement would have kept Lewis from his experience against the Dallas Mavericks last Friday. He scored a season-high 11 points, including 3 3-pointers, in the Heat's 110-104 victory, but it wasn't just about the offense.

He was on the court with the outcome still in doubt. Lewis, in his 15th season, made a key deflection in a three-point game that led to a jump ball and the Heat regaining possession.

"It just felt good to be out there with the guys and try to finish the game," said Lewis, who is averaging 5.2 points and 19 minutes a game. "For me, I think a couple years ago, I would have enjoyed the 3-pointers the most. On this team, I would have to go with the defensive play, getting the stop and steal. … I would have to roll with the defensive play."

The play almost never happened.

Lewis was all set to end his career after tendinitis in both knees made it nearly impossible to perform. He played just 79 games from 2010-12, growing closer to calling it quits. He sought opinions from doctors in Houston, his hometown, and New York. All suggested surgery, something Lewis wanted to avoid.