SEATTLE (AP) – All-Star guard Ray Allen gauged his value on the free-agent market before asking the Seattle SuperSonics for a fair deal.

Turns out, a 30-year-old shooting guard coming off his best season is worth about $17 million a year.

Allen agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract extension with Seattle on Tuesday, his agent said.

The contract includes $80 million in salary and $5 million in bonuses, although terms of the bonuses and the yearly breakdown of salary hasn’t been determined.

Allen became a free agent on July 1, and cannot sign the deal until the free-agent signing period begins on July 22. His agent, Lon Babby, said Allen plans to sign the contract at the first available moment. Allen will turn 30 on July 20.

“When Ray became a free agent and had chance to explore opportunities, we were able to report back to the Sonics on what the market was dictating and they essentially responded accordingly,” Babby said during a conference call. “We tried to get it done over these many months, but both sides needed verification from the marketplace.”

Seattle spokesman Marc Moquin said the team couldn’t comment on the agreement.

Allen’s contract expired at midnight last Friday, and the response from other teams was swift.

Babby said when he got into his office that morning, his voice mail was full of messages from interested suitors.

That day, Babby and Allen held conference calls with interested teams in Babby’s Washington, D.C. office. Some of the teams had room under the salary cap, while others were seeking possible sign-and-trade options.

“It was a tremendous amount of interest,” Babby said. “It was gratifying to Ray in the sense of where he stood.”

The pair then went back to the Sonics. Allen earned about $14 million last season, and Seattle could have given him a maximum $97 million, five-year extension.

The two sides tried to negotiate a new deal during the regular season, and started talks again after the playoffs.

“It took a long, long time, but except for momentary lapses, it was a completely amicable process,” Babby said. “I think Ray comes back to Seattle with a peace of mind now that he’s seen what is out there and decided the best place for him is in Seattle.”

Expected to be among the worst teams in the NBA last season, Seattle instead shocked the league, winning 52 games and the Northwest Division title – a year after winning just 37 games.

Allen was the catalyst and leader.

He averaged a career-high 23.9 points per game – 10th in the league. Allen and his teammates bought into coach Nate McMillan’s system, and forward Rashard Lewis developed into an All-Star, giving Allen a complimentary talent.

In the playoffs, Seattle beat Sacramento in five games for its first playoff series victory since 1997, before losing to San Antonio in six games in the conference semifinals.

Allen again starred, averaging 26.5 points in 11 playoff games, including a playoff career-high 45 in Game 4 against the Kings.

After the season, Allen indicated his hope of returning.

“That’s been my goal the whole time,” he said.

Now that Allen is in place, Seattle’s attention turns to McMillan, whose contract also expired on July 1.

“Nate’s situation is certainly a factor,” said Babby, who would not go into further detail. “(Ray) is committed to seeing this franchise move forward and succeed and I think he welcomes the opportunity to keep the team intact.”

Allen spent his first 61/2 seasons in Milwaukee before moving to Seattle in February 2003 in a trade for Gary Payton. The UConn grad has averaged 20.6 points over his nine-year career.

Allen is the first of Seattle’s nine free agents to agree on a new deal. Other key unrestricted free agents include guard Antonio Daniels and center Jerome James.

Last week, the team extended qualifying offers to four restricted free agents, including key reserve forward Vladimir Radmanovic and starting power forward Reggie Evans.

General manager Rick Sund – who recently signed a three-year contract extension – said before the NBA Draft that it was unrealistic to think Seattle would resign all of its free agents, but hoped the core would return.

Bringing Allen back was the first step.

“I don’t think anyone can question the Sonics’ commitment,” Babby said.

AP-ES-07-05-05 1752EDT


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