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Originally published July 11, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 13, 2007 at 12:02 PM

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Lewis era in Seattle ends today

In retrospect, perhaps the Sonics and their fans never knew what they had in Rashard Lewis. The 1998 second-round draft pick's nine-year...

Seattle Times staff reporter

In retrospect, perhaps the Sonics and their fans never knew what they had in Rashard Lewis. The 1998 second-round draft pick's nine-year career in Seattle will end today when he signs with Orlando for the richest free-agent contract in the past two years.

Lewis agreed to the deal — worth between $97 million and $124 million — on July 2. Per league rules, teams had to wait until today before signing free agents.

The Magic has spent the past few days attempting to finalize a sign-and-trade deal with the Sonics to ease the financial burdens of the Lewis contract, but the teams had not agreed on compensation as of Tuesday night.

According to league sources, the major stumbling block in negotiations was Orlando's unwillingness to include a high draft pick in the deal. The Sonics were considering accepting the expiring contracts of Carlos Arroyo ($4 million), Pat Garrity ($3.8 million) and Keyon Dooling ($3.6 million) only if the Magic included a first- and possibly a second-round pick.

Orlando was also shopping Hedo Turkoglu, but he's owed $13 million the next two seasons and has a $7.4 million player option for the 2009-10 season.

With 13 players under contract next season, the Sonics do not need to add players. In fact, Seattle is believed to be shopping for a proven veteran scorer to take some offensive pressure off rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green.

New general manager Sam Presti hoped Lewis, the 32nd overall pick in 1998, would be that person. Presti, however, didn't believe Orlando's offer would be so lucrative.

"No matter what moves we make, it's always with an eye toward the future," he said a week ago. "You can't sacrifice the future for anybody."

To keep the one-time All-Star, the Sonics would have had to offer the 6-foot-10 forward a six-year, $124 million deal, which would have trumped the Magic's five-year, $97 million offer. If the teams complete a sign-and- trade deal, Orlando would be responsible for $124 million.

"I don't know if anybody knows how good Rashard really is because he's done a great job of adapting his whole career," said Ray Allen, the former Sonic traded to Boston on draft day. "He's played with me and he's played with Gary [Payton]. Two different personalities. I never thought Rashard played second fiddle, it's just that Gary and myself are very demonstrative when we play basketball.

"In Orlando, Dwight [Howard] is not a great scorer, but he's given so much on the block. Rashard knows how to score. He's tall and he creates mismatches for himself and Dwight."

"He'll fit in well with Orlando," said Dwane Casey, former Sonics assistant coach. "One thing he'll do for Dwight is give him space. Teams will be reluctant to double Dwight Howard in the post as long as Rashard is on the floor. He gives you another dimension. He's a matchup nightmare. Now you can move him to the four. He can play the three. He gives them a legitimate 20-point threat, which is something they haven't had since [Tracy] McGrady left."

Lewis, who turns 28 next month, opted out of the final two years of his deal and $21 million with the Sonics in May. He becomes the 22nd NBA player with a maximum contract.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

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