Lewis leaving Sonics for Orlando

7-3-07 - Rashard Lewis is leaving the Northwest and taking his game to Orlando.

One of the most sought-after free agents this offseason, Lewis agreed to a "maximum contract" with the Magic, his agent Tony Dutt said Tuesday.

Lewis made the decision late Monday night after meeting with Magic officials in Orlando.

"He had a comfort and a gut feeling and he feels they have a championship core, and that's what he wants to do is win a championship," Dutt said.

The terms of the deal are still being worked out, but Lewis is expected to receive a deal in the range of $15 million per season. The Magic wouldn't comment Tuesday, citing league rules that an agreement cannot be announced until July 11.

Orlando can only sign Lewis to a five-year contract, while Seattle could sign Lewis to a six-year deal. Dutt said the Magic and Seattle are in discussions about a sign-and-trade deal that would give Lewis that sixth year, help Orlando clear some salary and give Seattle something in return.

Sonics officials would not comment on the possibility of a sign-and-trade.

"That he's going to Orlando doesn't change the fact that he had good years in Seattle," Dutt said.

Lewis opted out of the final two years of his contract with Seattle in late May, leaving behind a guaranteed $21 million, and hoping to cash in with a big money contract from any number of suitors.

Seattle, the only team Lewis has played for, had the first chance to meet with the 6-foot-10 forward Sunday morning in Houston. Seattle was among 20 teams that contacted Dutt on Sunday, the first day of NBA free agency. New Seattle general manager Sam Presti just traded Ray Allen to Boston, but said publicly his hopes for the future included Lewis teaming with No. 2 overall pick Kevin Durant.

But the Sonics and Lewis never got into discussions about money and soon after his meeting with Seattle, Lewis boarded a plane for Orlando and liked what he heard from the Magic, including the chance to play with Dwight Howard.

Lewis told the Florida Today newspaper Tuesday afternoon that Orlando was at the top of his list from the start, largely due to the opportunity to team with Howard.

"Me and my agent sat down and talked about it after the season and we determined that Orlando would be No. 1, and when they gave me that call on the first (of July) I was just so excited," Lewis told the newspaper, while waiting at the Orlando airport for a flight to Houston.

"I'm just extremely excited because this seems like the perfect fit. We've got a great big man in Dwight Howard and the team is still real young, so we're only going to get better and better together. If you look at it, if you want to win a championship you have to have that big man, and with Dwight here we can do that."

Lewis is coming off his best season, when he averaged career highs in points (22.4), rebounds (6.6) and assists (2.4). His age (28 next month) and his ability to hit 3-pointers or score on the low block made Lewis a targeted commodity for many teams.

It has been quite the rise for Lewis. He entered the NBA draft out of high school in 1998, but surprisingly fell out of the first round, getting taken by Seattle with the 32nd pick. He matured into an All-Star during the 2004 season when Seattle reached the conference semifinals, and averaged 20 or more points each of the last three seasons.

"This is one of the most exciting days of my life, next to getting drafted into the NBA," Lewis told Florida Today. "I'm just so exited about seeing my future here and being involved with a first-class organization. I can't wait to get started because I think we can win a championship here someday."