Sonics, Wilcox reach agreement on three-year deal

Updated: August 15, 2006, 8:30 PM ET
Associated Press

Chris Wilcox finally got a chance to start on a regular basis once he arrived in Seattle. Now he's turned that opportunity into a $24 million contract.

Seattle SuperSonics

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Wilcox and the Sonics reached agreement Tuesday on a three-year deal that gives Wilcox a chance to prove his impressive 29 games with Seattle last season were no fluke.

The deal also gives Seattle a reasonable measure of security should Wilcox not develop into the star his agent believes -- and the Sonics' hope -- he can become.

Wilcox's agent, Jeff Fried, said it was a "win-win deal" for both sides. Sonics' officials agreed.

"It's safe to say it's a contract that is good for Chris and good for the Sonics. It's a three-year deal, which I think is good for both sides," Sonics' general manager Rick Sund said.

The 6-foot-10, athletic Wilcox was a restricted free agent and could have decided to sign a one-year deal with the Sonics, making him an unrestricted free agent following next season.

Instead, Fried and Sund battled through some contentious, sometimes frustrating negotiations, and an ownership change to reach a compromise, and keep Wilcox in a system that meshed well with his style.

Wilcox was traded to Seattle on Feb. 14 from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for forward Vladimir Radmanovic.

Wilcox delighted Seattle fans with his athletic play and thunderous dunks that meshed well with the Sonics' up-tempo style. He averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds, shot 59 percent and averaged 30 minutes, all career highs.

His most impressive performance came on April 4, when he scored 26 points and pulled down 24 rebounds in a victory over Houston. It was the first 20-20 by a Sonics' player in more than 10 years.

Now, Sonics' fans will get three more seasons of Wilcox, who hopes to cash in on an even bigger payday when this contract expires, just before his 27th birthday.

"After three years, if Chris progresses to the superstar level, we feel comfortable about the salary situation to compensate him and his superstar status," Fried said.

Wilcox, who turns 24 on Sept. 3, was taken with the No. 8 pick in the 2002 draft after his sophomore season at Maryland. He never found a role with the Clippers, especially playing behind All-Star Elton Brand.

Wilcox averaged only 4.5 points in 48 games with the Clippers before the trade.

"I was frustrated a lot," Wilcox said of his time in Los Angeles. "It was tough. It pushed my confidence level down because I wasn't playing."

The negotiations between Fried and Sund were complicated by the July 18 sale of the SuperSonics to the Professional Basketball Club LLC, led by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett.

But the sides appeared to reach a mutual understanding late last week during in-person negotiations.

Sund said the new ownership group didn't have much impact on the decision to sign Wilcox since the sale of the franchise doesn't close until October.

Coach Bob Hill was extremely pleased to get Wilcox back in the fold.

"Oh, this is significant. ... As good as he was last season, I think he can be better," Hill said. "He's got the potential to be an All-Star. The way he runs and jumps, he does that so well for a guy his size ... but I need to get him to do more."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press