FRANK HUGHES; The News Tribune
Published: June 2nd, 2007 01:00 AM
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Houston Rockets intend to contact the Seattle SuperSonics to discuss a potential sign-and-trade deal for free-agent forward Rashard Lewis.
The Rockets will offer forward Shane Battier and their No. 1 draft pick, 26th overall, in an attempt to lure Lewis home to Houston.
The Sonics say they want to re-sign Lewis, a one-time All-Star who has opted out of his contract, and they have the negotiating leverage to convince him to stay because they can offer a longer-term contract than any other suitor.
But the Rockets are hoping that they can cajole Lewis to leave the only NBA team he has played for with the enticement of being close to family and friends.
If the Rockets cannot land Lewis, they will consider offering Battier for Chris Wilcox, who thrives in up-tempo systems because of his ability to run the court. Wilcox could lose his starting power forward position in Seattle if Lewis and Kevin Durant, the team’s expected No. 2 overall draft pick, play together.
Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, who works as a television analyst for the Rockets, has told team officials he has breakfast daily with Lewis and that he thinks he can help persuade the player to join a Rockets organization that passed on Lewis three times in the first round of the 1998 draft.
Drexler also has told the Rockets’ decision-makers he might be able to convince Lewis to leave the Sonics and take a shorter-term deal for the midlevel exception, though Houston acknowledges that is an unlikely scenario.
The Rockets had one of the best records in the league this season (52-30) but were bumped out of the postseason in the first round by the Utah Jazz, after which they fired coach Jeff Van Gundy and replaced him with Rick Adelman.
Now, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is attempting to reshape the roster to fit the more up-tempo philosophies employed by Adelman, who led the Sacramento Kings to eight consecutive playoff berths with an exciting brand of basketball.
The Rockets want to keep Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, but they are trying to put in place players who better complement the two All-Stars while fitting in with Adelman’s approach.
The Rockets plan to talk with the Minnesota Timberwolves
about swapping veteran forward Juwan Howard for scoring point guard Mike James, who enjoyed two of his best seasons in Houston before going to Toronto.
They also are attempting to send the expiring contract of retired guard Bob Sura to the Golden State Warriors
for little-used guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, a move that would save the Warriors almost $3 million.
But the player the Rockets really covet is Lewis because of his size, versatility and, perhaps more than anything else, availability.
Battier has fallen out of favor with the Rockets because he does everything well except score.
The Sonics in the past have expressed to Houston their admiration for Battier’s all-around game.
The Rockets hope that intrigue, combined with the enticement of another first-round pick in a deep draft, is enough to make the Sonics consider a sign-and-trade.
The likely only way the Sonics will consider a sign-and-trade, however, is if they fear they will lose Lewis in free agency and get nothing in return.
There are only two teams – Charlotte and Orlando – that can come close to giving Lewis the same financial security that the Sonics can offer. That is a fact Seattle will use as leverage in their negotiations with Lewis in July.