League sources say that the Sonics have reached an impasse in negotiations with All-Star guard Ray Allen. Seattle's final offer, made approximately two weeks ago, was a five-year extension worth $75 million. Allen responded by asking for a bonus that would increase the contract to $80 million if his production remained at 85% or more of his current level over the first three years of the deal. But the Sonics rejected that proposal, and it appears that the club will allow Allen to become a free agent this summer, when the Clippers, Hawks, Hornets and potentially the Cavaliers may compete with Seattle to sign him.
Based on his current $14.6 million salary, the maximum Allen could receive is $95 million over five years. He is willing to accept $15 million less even though he is having arguably his best season while leading Seattle (38-15 through Sunday) to a shocking 12 1/2-game Northwest Division lead over the Timberwolves. The Sonics feel that their offer is more than generous for a 29-year-old-- Steve Nash was 30 last summer when he signed his five-year, $53 million contract with the Suns--and they want to keep enough money to re-sign free agents like Vladimir Radmanovic, Antonio Daniels and Reggie Evans this summer.
But rival team executives suggest that Seattle is maintaining a hard line with Allen because the team is up for sale. Management has strongly denied it: "If that was true, then we wouldn't have made the offer to Ray that we did," says team president and minority owner Wally Walker. But the rumors of a sale have persisted since last summer because the Sonics have refused to re-sign G.M. Rick Sund, coach Nate McMillan or any of their seven free agents--giving any potential owner maximum flexibility. -- Ian Thomsen