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Thursday, July 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Wilcox talks becoming a drag

Seattle Times staff reporter

Because negotiations between the Sonics and restricted free agent Chris Wilcox stalled earlier this week, the sides are exploring sign-and-trade possibilities, the rhetoric is becoming terse and the likelihood that contract talks will end unfavorably for both sides grows stronger each day.

"The longer it drags on, we will come to the point of no return where Chris will not look back and will no longer want to be in Seattle," said Jeff Fried, the Washington, D.C.-based agent for Wilcox. "Since it appears that the Sonics are unwilling to give Chris his fair-market value, we're looking at other options."

According to one NBA source, as many as nine teams have contacted the Sonics about Wilcox, but general manager Rick Sund has declined to seriously entertain each offer.

Golden State is believed to be the latest team to inquire about Wilcox, but discussions with Seattle ended quickly because the Sonics are hoping to land an All-Star forward in return.

Sund and Fried exchanged initial contract proposals on Monday, and the meeting revealed just how far apart both sides are.

Many believed the Sonics would offer Wilcox the six-year, $42 million deal they extended Vladimir Radmanovic last year, but Seattle's offer was slightly lower because only a few teams have the salary-cap flexibility to aggressively pursue the 6-foot-10 power forward.

Most teams can use their mid-level exception and offer Wilcox a five-year, $31 million contract, but the Sonics can match those offers and retain his services.

Given their favorable position, the Sonics offered Wilcox considerably less than Denver's six-year, $60 million deal with Nene on Sunday, which seemed to set the market for power forwards.

Wilcox was hoping to land a deal comparable to Nene's because the Sonics forward averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in 29 games with Seattle last season. Nene, who missed last season because of a knee injury, averaged 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in three seasons with the Nuggets. A possible breakthrough in the negotiations occurred Wednesday when Fried told the Sonics that he's open to accepting a three-year deal averaging less than $10 million per season.

The two sides continue to converse daily, but no face-to-face meetings are scheduled. Fried said he was optimistic. Sund didn't return messages to his office on Wednesday.

If the Sonics aren't agreeable to a short-term deal and sign-and-trade offers are refuted, then Wilcox's only option is signing the qualifying offer that will make him an unrestricted free agent next summer.

It's the same option the Sonics presented Radmanovic, Reggie Evans and Ronald Murray last year.

Each of them grudgingly took the one-year deal, which was partly to blame for Seattle's 35-47 record because they sulked during the season, never played to their potential and were dealt before the February trade deadline.

"Chris enjoyed Seattle immensely, really bonded with his teammates and we certainly thought they had the view that his value was part of building a playoff caliber team," Fried said. "Chris either wants to get a deal done in Seattle or move forward with the sign and trade.

"He doesn't want a long, drawn-out negotiation, and I would think that the last thing the Sonics would want is a disgruntled 24-year-old who doesn't want to be there."

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

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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