Former Magic forward Rashard Lewis called Dwight Howard’s recent comments about his former Magic teammates “disrespectful” and defended Jameer Nelson, once one of Howard’s closest friends.

Howard told a CBS affiliate in L.A. that “my team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face.”

Howard, Lewis and Nelson were on the Magic team that defied odds and reached the NBA Finals in 2009.

"It's disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was," said Lewis, who signed this summer with the Miami Heat, which faced the Magic on Wednesday night.

“We made a good run. Hell, look at those (conference and division) banners hanging in the stands. They don’t say Dwight Howard on them..."

Nelson said after shootaround that he was disappointed in Howard’s professionalism.

“At some point, when are you a gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner,” Nelson told the Sentinel.

“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.

“That’s his opinion. If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels.”

Nelson and Howard were close, drafted together in the first round in 2004.

But their relationship eroded after Howard said before he was traded to the Lakers last summer that he would love to play with some of the league’s elite point guards, such as Chris Paul.

Former Magic General Manager Otis Smith said that Howard “threw Jameer under the bus.”

Said Lewis, “Everybody on that team was very close friends. Not only that, but Jameer Nelson, out of all people. I don’t care. I got thick skin. That stuff bounces off me…but him and Jameer are supposed to be best friends.

“Jameer kept his mouth shut for a long time..you hear him (Dwight) say stuff like Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, this guy, that guy and Jameer Nelson is the one who took us to the Finals, who helped, even though he got injured.”

Brian Schmitz is the Magic Insider for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him at bschmitz@tribune.com. And you can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@magicinsider.