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With Bryant out of reach, Lewis is likely target for Knicks

With Bryant out of reach, Lewis is likely target for Knicks

With Bryant out of reach, Lewis is likely target for Knicks

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NBA predraft camp was abuzz with talk of Kobe Bryant's on-again, off-again trade demand and speculation immediately arose regarding where Bryant might wind up.

Here's one place he likely won't: New York.

It's not that there won't be any interest if Bryant is shopped. Isiah Thomas will make the requisite call to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak if the team decides to go through with Bryant's request. But Thomas knows the Knicks don't have nearly enough to compete with what the Lakers might demand for the NBA's leading scorer.

But the Knicks believe they do have what it takes to land one all-star caliber player this summer to move to contender status in the East. Multiple persons with knowledge of the situation yesterday confirmed that the Knicks plan to pursue a sign-and-trade deal with Seattle for Rashard Lewis.

The one-time All-Star forward, who exercised an opt-out clause in his contract last Friday to become a free agent on July 1, is believed to have great interest in going to New York. Lewis' agent, Tony Dutt, would only say that talk of the Knicks' interest is "the great thing about being a free agent, [Lewis] can look at all of his options."

Thomas, however, shot down the notion that the Knicks would be involved in anything major during the offseason that would add more to a payroll that shrinks somewhat next season but is still well over the salary cap. To acquire Lewis, the Knicks would likely have to accept him after the Sonics sign him to at least a five-year deal that would push the Knicks even deeper into luxury tax debt.

"We're not going to set ourselves back," Thomas said. "We sit in a very comfortable position right now in terms of our base."

Thomas did suggest that, with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant expected to go No.1 and 2 in the draft to Western Conference teams (Portland and Seattle, respectively), the East "is still going to be open."

"And until somebody makes some major changes or some major trades, I think you'll probably be looking at the same group of characters again," he added. "Hopefully, we'll be one of the characters in the playoffs next year."

According to one person with knowledge of the Knicks' thinking, Lewis would be an exception to the rule regarding adding more payroll because he is relatively young (he turns 28 in August) and is an outstanding perimeter shooter who also possesses a post-up game. The Knicks figure him to fit perfectly with Eddy Curry as the dominating inside threat. This past season, the 6-10 Lewis averaged 22.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in 60 games and shot 39 percent from three-point range.

The Sonics are expected to select Durant, a 6-11 swingman, with the second overall pick, so their likely only option with Lewis is a sign-and-trade or to lose him for nothing on July 1. Sonics president Lenny Wilkens told a Seattle newspaper on Tuesday he plans to sign Lewis. The sides are expected to begin talks today.

The Knicks hope to jump into the conversation sometime in the near future.

"If there's a way we can upgrade our team, we definitely will. We're not in a hurry to do anything," Thomas said. "We're not looking to make any mistakes. We'll be cautious and very conservative."

Meanwhile, predraft camp was otherwise uneventful. Just about all of the big names in the draft - Oden, Durant, Brandan Wright and Joakim Noah - are not participating in the scrimmages. Thomas said he expects to make a pick at No.23, but will likely take a risk on a project type of player who can develop. The presence of late-season signee Randolph Morris from Kentucky, he said, allows him that luxury.

One player who could be on the Knicks' draft board is Florida point guard Taurean Green, the son of former Knick Sidney Green, who is projected to be a second-round pick. Thomas spoke highly of Green and mentioned how he "quarterbacked two championships" with the Gators.

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Re: With Bryant out of reach, Lewis is likely target for Knicks

Rockets eye Lewis for Battier

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Houston Rockets intend to contact the Seattle SuperSonics to discuss a potential sign-and-trade deal for free-agent forward Rashard Lewis.

The Rockets will offer forward Shane Battier and their No. 1 draft pick, 26th overall, in an attempt to lure Lewis home to Houston.

The Sonics say they want to re-sign Lewis, a one-time All-Star who has opted out of his contract, and they have the negotiating leverage to convince him to stay because they can offer a longer-term contract than any other suitor.

But the Rockets are hoping that they can cajole Lewis to leave the only NBA team he has played for with the enticement of being close to family and friends.

If the Rockets cannot land Lewis, they will consider offering Battier for Chris Wilcox, who thrives in up-tempo systems because of his ability to run the court. Wilcox could lose his starting power forward position in Seattle if Lewis and Kevin Durant, the team’s expected No. 2 overall draft pick, play together.

Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, who works as a television analyst for the Rockets, has told team officials he has breakfast daily with Lewis and that he thinks he can help persuade the player to join a Rockets organization that passed on Lewis three times in the first round of the 1998 draft.

Drexler also has told the Rockets’ decision-makers he might be able to convince Lewis to leave the Sonics and take a shorter-term deal for the midlevel exception, though Houston acknowledges that is an unlikely scenario.

The Rockets had one of the best records in the league this season (52-30) but were bumped out of the postseason in the first round by the Utah Jazz, after which they fired coach Jeff Van Gundy and replaced him with Rick Adelman.

Now, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is attempting to reshape the roster to fit the more up-tempo philosophies employed by Adelman, who led the Sacramento Kings to eight consecutive playoff berths with an exciting brand of basketball.

The Rockets want to keep Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, but they are trying to put in place players who better complement the two All-Stars while fitting in with Adelman’s approach.

The Rockets plan to talk with the Minnesota Timberwolves about swapping veteran forward Juwan Howard for scoring point guard Mike James, who enjoyed two of his best seasons in Houston before going to Toronto.

They also are attempting to send the expiring contract of retired guard Bob Sura to the Golden State Warriors for little-used guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, a move that would save the Warriors almost $3 million.

But the player the Rockets really covet is Lewis because of his size, versatility and, perhaps more than anything else, availability.

Battier has fallen out of favor with the Rockets because he does everything well except score.

The Sonics in the past have expressed to Houston their admiration for Battier’s all-around game.

The Rockets hope that intrigue, combined with the enticement of another first-round pick in a deep draft, is enough to make the Sonics consider a sign-and-trade.

The likely only way the Sonics will consider a sign-and-trade, however, is if they fear they will lose Lewis in free agency and get nothing in return.

There are only two teams – Charlotte and Orlando – that can come close to giving Lewis the same financial security that the Sonics can offer. That is a fact Seattle will use as leverage in their negotiations with Lewis in July.

Trail Blazers wanted to talk to Cho

Before the Portland Trail Blazers hired Mike Penn as their assistant general manager, they called the Sonics to request permission to speak to assistant GM Rich Cho.

The Sonics turned down the Blazers’ request, and Kevin Pritchard then hired Penn.

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Re: With Bryant out of reach, Lewis is likely target for Knicks

Everyone wants Rashard Lewis  smile

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