|Sonics get first shot at courting Lewis|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 01 July 2007 13:05|
Lewis' agent, Tony Dutt, said 20 teams contacted him in some form by late Sunday morning regarding the 6-foot-10 forward, who opted out of the final two years of his contract with the Seattle SuperSonics to become a free agent.
But it was the Sonics - the only team Lewis has played for - that got the first chance to meet with Lewis. New general manger Sam Presti led a Seattle contingent that had discussions with Lewis and Dutt early Sunday in Houston.
Presti and his staff presented their plan for the future of the franchise - an issue brought into question since Thursday's draft when Seattle traded All-Star Ray Allen to Boston, and drafted forwards Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, who appear to play the same position as Lewis.
``We went over all of that,'' Dutt said. ``All I will say is they laid it out very professionally. It was very productive and important for us to sit down with them first.''
Dutt said the two sides didn't get into numbers, although Lewis is expected to command a salary in the range of $15 million per season. Seattle has the added advantage of being able to sign Lewis to a six-year contract under the NBA collective bargaining agreement, while other teams can only offer him a five-year deal.
That extra year has brought into play the possibility of a sign-and-trade deal. Dutt said that type of deal could be the best option if Lewis were to leave the Sonics - maximizing Lewis' contract potential, landing in a preferred situation, but not leaving Seattle empty-handed.
``There are very few people that have the cap room needed,'' Dutt said of signing Lewis as a free agent. ``If he were to leave, we would want to help them get what they want. It's a two-way street.''
Dutt hopes to have a deal in place by July 11 when teams can officially sign free agents.
Lewis is coming off his best season, when he averaged career-highs in points (22.4), rebounds (6.6) and assists (2.4).
His age (he turns 28 next month) and his versatility to hit 3-pointers or score on the low block make Lewis a targeted commodity for many teams. Houston general manager Daryl Morey told Houston television station KRIV-TV Saturday night that the Rockets were going to heavily pursue Lewis and try to convince him to return to Houston, where Lewis grew up.
Presti didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Sunday, but after the draft reiterated Seattle's desire to retain Lewis.
``Rashard is another versatile player and I believe with this group he'll have the opportunity to grow even further,'' Presti said.
Presti did not mention who Seattle's new coach would be during the meeting with Lewis, Dutt said. Seattle is expected to make its decision early in the week. San Antonio assistant P.J. Carlesimo and former Minnesota coach and Seattle assistant Dwane Casey are believed to be the front-runners. Casey and Lewis have an extensive history together from Casey's time as an assistant with the Sonics.