News of sale leaves Lewis numb
Seattle Times staff reporter
Rashard Lewis spent his entire adult life in Seattle, growing up, as he would say, in front of Sonics fans who watched the team take him in the second round of the 1998 NBA draft.
During the season, he lives in a waterfront home on Mercer Island, and he recently said he intends to sign a $25 million, two-year contract extension with the team in September that should allow him to spend his entire career with the Sonics.
Admittedly, he has more invested in the Sonics than just about anyone else, so initially he was shocked and dismayed upon learning that the Howard Schultz-led ownership group sold the team to an investment group from Oklahoma City for $350 million.
"Kind of like numb, to be honest, was the first thing I felt," he said. "When I saw that [a reporter] had called, I initially thought that I'd been traded or somebody had been traded. But when I listened to the message, I just couldn't believe it.
"We'd been talking about it for a long time, and now it finally happens. In my heart, I never did think the team would get sold, and now I'm like, 'Wow.' I've got so many thoughts. Where do I begin?"
For starters, Lewis said the new ownership group wouldn't dissuade him from signing the extension even if it moves the team to Oklahoma City.
The Sonics have a lease at Seattle Center that runs through the 2009-10 season, and the new owners, led by prominent Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, said they intend to honor the agreement and seek a new arena deal in King County.
Still, Lewis, like many others, believes the Sonics will eventually relocate.
"I don't think they'd come all the way up here to buy a team and just to be out-of-state owners," he said. "I'm from Houston, so if they moved, I'd be closer to home. But at the same time, I'd be sad for the fans in Seattle who've had this team for what seems like forever."
Restricted free agent Chris Wilcox and his agent, Jeff Fried, will travel to Seattle next week in hopes of concluding negotiations, which have stalled after the two sides reached an impasse.
The Sonics offered him a five-year, $40 million deal when he was seeking a contract worth about $60 million. The sides failed to reach an agreement on a three-year deal and have had little contact in the past two weeks.
"It makes sense to me now why things went the way they went," Fried said. "Apparently, their hands were tied pre-sale to do anything of any material note. Now that the sales have taken place, I'm hoping good-faith discussions can transpire as to what is fair and equitable.
"Either way, we want to know sooner rather than later where we're at. This can't drag on any longer."
Without a long-term deal in place, Wilcox will be forced to accept a one-year tender worth $3.6 million.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
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