For the first time in his nine-year career, Ray Allen (above, 29), will become a free agent unless he and the Sonics reach an agreement before June 30, which seems unlikely.
General manager Rick Sund and Lon Babby, Allen’s agent, have had sporadic talks over the past 10 months.
Negotiations began with the two sides $20-plus million apart, but reportedly they narrowed the gap and were just $5 million apart when negotiations broke off in February.
Neither side has spoken publicly about the negotiations, but the Sonics’ offer of a five-year, $70 million deal had become widely circulated throughout the league, while Allen was expected to ask for a maximum deal of $90 million.
A team source confirmed that during the All-Star break in Denver, the Sonics increased their offer to $75 million and Allen countered with an incentive-laden package that would total $80 million.
Despite being the top free agent that will hit the market, Allen has little leverage because only a handful of teams can afford him.
Atlanta appears to have the most money beneath the salary cap at $22 million, but the Hawks finished with a 13-69 record and haven’t had a winning season in seven years. Still, league sources said yesterday that Atlanta plans to court Allen just as they did Kenyon Martin a year ago.
Cleveland, Charlotte, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Clippers will also have money to spend, but among those teams, only the Cavaliers are reasonably attractive.
Comparatively, the Sonics, who finished 52-30 and were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals, are a better option if the team retains its core players.
Along with Allen, reserve guard Antonio Daniels has publicly stated he wants to return next season, though he’s expected to void the final year of his deal that will pay him $2.2 million.
I don’t know what kind of insane individual would claim the Spurs wouldn’t be able to run with the Suns, but thank god he’s not writing a basketball blog.