SEATTLE -- Rashard Lewis found out very quickly on Sunday
just how coveted he is in the NBA free agency marketplace.
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 ever 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."
There are very few people that have the cap room needed. If he were to leave, we would want to help them get what they want. It's a two-way street.
Tony Dutt, Rashard Lewis's agent, on signing Lewis as a free agent
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
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, where 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 with ease 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.
"We really want him," Morey told KRIV-TV. "We think he would be a significant player for us. Rashard would have to be motivated to come."
Morey told KRIV that in order for Lewis to land in Houston, "it has to be through a sign and trade."
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
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.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.