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SuperSonics deal with losing Lewis

March 11, 2007|From the Associated Press

Considering they don't know where they'll be playing in a few years, the Seattle SuperSonics are pretty used to dealing with uncertainty.

But the idea of a future without Rashard Lewis is something they don't want to think about.

Lewis can opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, and the SuperSonics realize how important it is to hold onto the 6-foot-10 forward who was an All-Star two years ago and is still only 27.

"If the Sonics can't sign Rashard, they should probably just start over," Seattle Coach Bob Hill said.

Lewis has been in Seattle since he was drafted out of high school by the team in the second round of the 1998 draft, and ranks in the top 10 in numerous team career statistical categories.

And if the SuperSonics needed a reminder of his value, they got it earlier this season when they were without Lewis for 22 games -- losing 14 of them -- while he was out because of an injured tendon in his right hand.

That's probably when Hill got the idea that Lewis needs to be in Seattle -- or wherever the team is playing when its lease at KeyArena expires in 2010.

"It's really not for me to say, this isn't my job," Hill said. "That's my opinion that if we can't re-sign him because I don't see getting the same value for him. I just think he's awfully important to the future of this organization."

Averaging a career-best 21.9 points entering Friday's game at Boston, Lewis was also shooting nearly 40% from three-point range and 90% at the free-throw line. Hill also praised him for improved ball handling, saying Lewis volunteered to play point guard on his summer team so he could work on it.

The SuperSonics had to deal with the fear of losing a star only two years ago, before Ray Allen signed an extension in the summer of 2005. Now it's Allen's turn to hope Lewis stays put.

"I've been without him enough this season," Allen said. "I got guys on the team that can play and that can shoot, but not like he can.

"When I was a free agent, I was thinking about the type of situation I was in. You've got guys around you that can really play and other situations are really unknown. So it's up to him really as his free agency comes. There's nothing I can really do about it except for hope that he makes a good decision and the decision is going to benefit us."

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