By Bryan Jeon
Seattle Supersonics All-Star forward Rashard Lewis has chosen to become an unrestricted free agent come July 1, officially opting out of the final two years, $21 million of his 7-year, $60 million deal. He also rejected a 2-year, $25 million contract extension from the Sonics to test the market.
The 9-year veteran is coming off a career year of 22.4 points and 6.6 rebounds a game and is now among the top free agents this summer alongside Chauncey Billups, Gerald Wallace and Vince Carter, if Carter opts out of his contract with the New Jersey Nets like Lewis did. (This is the part where you Los Angeles Lakers fans insert any name here into your starting lineup and then dream about all of the possibilities for the upcoming season.)
Seattle will be the only team that can offer Lewis a 6-year contract and at this point, it’s tough to tell whether Seattle’s receiving of the second overall pick in the June draft and Kevin Durant is helping or hurting their cause in retaining Lewis. Lewis is 27-years-old and is at the point of his career where he is now playing to win.
Coming off a career year, Lewis could feel like banking in on a demand from Seattle to fork over a huge, six-year deal and play alongside one of the most hyped college stars the last couple of years have seen, with some major hope that Durant can spark a roster that includes Ray Allen and Luke Ridnour to the playoffs. Or he can just demand about $15 million a year with an already potent team looking to add a strong forward to their club with the fear that Durant would just eat up his playing time as the new, young forward on the team (like how the Carolina Panthers favored Dwayne Jarrett over Keyshawn Johnson).
It’s tough to tell and as a Sonics fan, I actually wouldn’t mind whatever route Rashard takes. The only things I would want Seattle to do if Rashard were to leave is draft Durant and spend Rashard’s money on a proven floor general or an impactful big man. But we’ll check back on this next month.
Image courtesy of nbadraft.net