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Comings and goings

Durant's pending arrival may signal Lewis' Sonics exit

Posted: Friday May 25, 2007 12:05PM; Updated: Friday May 25, 2007 2:22PM
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Rashard Lewis could be poised for a change of scenery after spending his first nine seasons in Seattle.
Rashard Lewis could be poised for a change of scenery after spending his first nine seasons in Seattle.
AP
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The lottery brought good news to the East, as counterintuitive as that sounds.

While the grand canyon of talent that divides the conferences grew wider when Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were drawn to Portland and Seattle, respectively, the Eastern GMs not named Danny Ainge and Billy Knight celebrated the results of the lottery as a kind of reprieve.

That's because they don't have to worry about Oden and Durant upsetting the balance of power in their conference. The East remains open for any number of teams to seize over the next several years. And on top of that, the arrival of Durant should further persuade the Sonics to participate in a sign-and-trade for Rashard Lewis.

The 6-foot-10 Lewis will turn 28 in August, so he'll be entering his peak years upon signing a new contract this summer. His agent, Tony Dutt, sent the opt-out forms this week to the league office, enabling Lewis to forego his final two years with Seattle.

"He's all excited to get going,'' Dutt said. "He called the other day and said, 'Can I do some runs?' He wants to do those workouts in Houston with John Lucas, but they have a bunch of guys down there who are like football players. Lucas goes all-out.

"So I told him, 'Don't do any runs yet.' He said, 'Can I shoot? I've been shooting three or four hours a day.' I said, 'Sure, you can go shoot.' ''

The point is that Lewis stands five weeks away from becoming the top free agent on the market, and Dutt wants nothing to go wrong. Chauncey Billups is likely to re-sign with Detroit, and if Vince Carter doesn't stay with New Jersey, then he surely hurt his chances of claiming a max contract elsewhere by failing to seize control of the Nets' conference semis with Cleveland.

That leaves Lewis atop the list of free agents who will be available. The odds of his moving increased when the Sonics were handed the rights to the 6-10 Durant, who like Lewis is a mismatch-making small forward. Will the Sonics be willing to invest an average of $14 million or more in Lewis when they'll have his younger replacement starting at less than $4 million next season?

That's a hard question to answer, as the Sonics have yet to hire a GM to replace Rick Sund. It's a big mistake to let that seat remain empty. The new leader -- especially if it's the heavily rumored Sam Presti from San Antonio, who has never been a GM before -- will need weeks to sort through his roster and wisely plot the myriad trade possibilities that will come up around the draft, which is the best time of year to make deals. The vacuum of leadership in Seattle decreases the control it may exert over Lewis's future.

A long list of teams should be interested in acquiring him, led by Orlando, which could make an offer to him outright should the Magic decide to let go of restricted free agent Darko Milicic. (Lewis undoubtedly would prefer the Magic to send Milicic to the Sonics in a sign-and-trade, thus providing Lewis with an additional sixth year on his new contract.) The Bulls could create the requisite space by renouncing their free agents and moving another salary or two, and then recasting Lewis as a Nowitzki-like power forward. The Bobcats could make a run, but will they spend the money?

Then New York, Cleveland, Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia, Boston and Indiana are among the teams that theoretically could explore a sign-and-trade for Lewis. Portland, too, has been reported as having interest.

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