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Originally published April 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 19, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Sonics end season with a whimper

Informal negotiations started Tuesday evening. Sonics forward Rashard Lewis' agents met with general manager Rick Sund for dinner to express...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Informal negotiations started Tuesday evening.

Sonics forward Rashard Lewis' agents met with general manager Rick Sund for dinner to express the player's desire to stay in Seattle. The soon-to-be highly touted free agent embarks on an uncertain summer that should end in a windfall of cash. Lewis' contract negotiations could be symbolic of whether the team that turned a second-round draft pick into an All-Star stays in the city he has called home the past nine years.

Lewis said he didn't allow his intent to opt out of the final two years of his contract or the recent news regarding an arena into his mind during a 106-75 loss to Dallas in the Sonics' season finale Wednesday.

Seattle missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season and finished with the fifth-worst record in the league at 31-51. The Sonics have an 18 percent chance of getting one of the top two picks in the NBA draft.

After exit interviews today, Lewis is going to take a break, then return to Seattle in June to run a basketball camp and digest what is happening with the organization.

If primary owner Clay Bennett is serious about keeping the team in the Puget Sound region, he'd probably spend money on Lewis, giving him a maximum or near-maximum deal. If Bennett sees no future in the area, stating as much after Monday's news from Olympia, he might let Lewis go in a money-saving move.

Lewis, however, said he's going to give the Sonics the first chance to match any deal he receives once free agency opens July 1.

"At this point everything plays a factor," Lewis said. "The Sonics gave me a chance to be the type of player I am today and I'm appreciative of it. They're going to be the first team I'm going to look at to see what kind of offer they're going to give me. I just hope the offer is not insulting, more than anything."

Without co-captain Ray Allen or regular point guards Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson (all out with injuries), the Sonics and Lewis were little match for the Mavericks at KeyArena on Wednesday. The Sonics dropped their fifth straight game and had their worst record since 1985-86.

The playoff-bound Mavericks (67-15) will face Golden State (42-40) in the opening round.

Lewis, who only played 29 minutes, finished with 14 points. He expects his exit interview with Sund today to primarily be about on-court basketball issues.

Yet, Sund's job security is another question mark. So is the status of coach Bob Hill.

"A new GM may come in and want to change things around and he may not like my style of play or the attitude I bring to this team," said Lewis, who averaged a career-high 22.4 points this season. "I think the main thing is talking to Clay Bennett, not just Rick Sund."

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