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 SEATTLE (AP) -The man who discovered Tony Parker couldn't find the time to watch much of the San Antonio star's breakout NBA finals.
Sam Presti, the SuperSonics' general manager since late last week, has been immersed in finding a coach before the June 28 draft and in assessing his team. So immersed, the 30-year-old who spent the last seven years as a Spurs intern, scout and assistant GM didn't even look up to watch more for than a few moments as the team he helped build won another NBA title.
``Busy,'' Presti said, reached on his cell phone Thursday night. Then he asked what the score was in Game 4.
The only part of the championship series Presti watched this week was the third quarter of Game 3.
It was Presti's insistence that convinced San Antonio to draft Parker 28th overall in 2001. Once a slight, 18-year-old prospect on whom the Spurs wanted to pass after seeing him get pushed around in a pre-draft workout, Parker is now the Finals MVP - an honor that went to Tim Duncan in each of the Spurs' first three titles.
No wonder Spurs general manager R.C. Buford thinks so much of Presti.
``Professionally, for him it's a great, great opportunity,'' Buford said. ``Personally for me, I'll miss the hell out of him.''
The Sonics can start rebuilding right away. Seattle has the second pick in the draft, and is likely to be able to take Kevin Durant of Texas.
``It may sound familiar to some people,'' Presti said. ``There's another 18-year-old, frail, talented player that much has been written about lately.''
But Durant isn't the only reason Presti has been swamped this week. Sonics owner Clay Bennett gave Presti full authority to make all basketball decisions by removing Lenny Wilkens from his months-old job as president. The first decision is on hiring a coach before the draft.
Interviews are thought to be starting next week. Presti and the Sonics have repeatedly refused to name whom they covet, but the top candidates appear to be Rick Carlisle, P.J. Carlesimo and Dwane Casey.
Carlisle, the former coach at Detroit and Indiana, turned down an option to become the Pacers' executive vice president last week. The former Sonics broadcaster in 2000 said his decision was not related to Seattle's opening.
Carlesimo is a Spurs assistant who has worked with Presti for the last five years. The former Portland and Golden State coach, who hasn't been a head man since the Warriors fired him in 1999, became available to talk on Friday now that San Antonio's season is finished. The Sacramento Bee reported Carlesimo is also in line to interview for the Kings' coaching vacancy.
Casey, a former longtime Sonics assistant fired in the middle of last season by Minnesota, has expressed strong interest. He is known as having a mind for defense, which fits the vision Presti outlined for the Sonics.
``I do think defensively we need to establish an identity,'' Presti said.
Presti must also decide soon how intensely to pursue a new contract for Rashard Lewis. The Sonics' second-leading scorer will become a free agent July 1, after opting out of the last two years of his contract. The Sonics are the only team that can offer Lewis a six-year contract and the maximum salary allowed under the league's salary cap.
The likely drafting of Durant, who plays the same small forward position as Lewis, has prompted speculation that chasing after Lewis may not be viable for a team that Bennett claimed lost $20 million last season. Per the league's collective bargaining agreement, the second pick June 28 will receive $3,476,000 in his first contract year and $3,736,700 in his second. Both of those years are guaranteed. The Sonics will have a team option for a third year at $3,997,400.
``It's hard for me to address the specifics right now, because there is so much depth that goes into these issues, as far as strategic planning and cap analysis,'' Presti said when asked if there will be enough space under the cap to keep Durant and Lewis. ``What I hope is that, over time, we will be creative and try to be, what's the word I want to use? - strategic - in how we manage our cap situation.''
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Associated Press Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.
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