Sonics president Lenny Wilkens said Tuesday he plans to have a general manager in place before the June 28 NBA draft and made it clear that...

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Sonics president Lenny Wilkens said Tuesday he plans to have a general manager in place before the June 28 NBA draft and made it clear that he is able to speak with any candidate even if their team is in the playoffs.

That last bit of information debunked previous reports out of San Antonio that Sam Presti — the Spurs assistant general manager who is believed to be the leading candidate for the GM job in Seattle — is unable to interview while his team is still playing.

“That has no bearing on anything,” Wilkens said outside the Milk House Gym, where the NBA is conducting its four-day predraft camp at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.

Detroit’s Tony Ronzone and John Hammond and Phoenix’s David Griffin are also possibilities, but Wilkens was careful not to mention names.

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Wilkens said he has identified a few candidates and admittedly he’s already conducted formal interviews.

“We’re in the process of doing it and I’m hoping it will be [done] soon,” he said. “It’s not a real long list. I still have a couple of people I have to talk to. I’m hoping that we have this process done before the draft.”

According to one league source at the camp, Wilkens may conclude the process this week after meeting with Presti. The source said Wilkens and Presti were going to have dinner Tuesday or today during a formal interview.

Northwest connections

A daily rundown on players with Northwest connections at the NBA predraft camp

G Aaron Brooks: His lack of height jumps out at you. Listed at 6 feet at Oregon, it will be interesting to see what Brooks’ height is after he undergoes testing on Friday. He moved to shooting guard his senior season at Oregon and developed into a talented scorer.

Scout’s take: “He’ll need to show that he can play point guard and find shots for others.”

G Marcelus Kemp: The former Garfield High star did his best work inside and rarely ventured out to the perimeter.

Scout’s take: “Honestly, I didn’t notice him out there. He might have had a nice day, but it just didn’t register with me.”

G Coby Karl: It has been almost two months since Karl, son of Denver coach George Karl, underwent a seven-hour surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes. On Tuesday, he showed no ill effects, playing strong defense and quickly learning drills.

Scout’s take: “Can he score at the [NBA] level? I don’t know. Granted, that’s not his forte, but he’s got to show some offense this week.”

Percy Allen

The San Antonio Express-News reported Monday that the Sonics called the Spurs over the weekend and asked permission to speak with the 30-year-old Presti.

Wilkens declined to confirm or deny the report.

Several league sources said Sonics chairman Clay Bennett is intent on plucking a front-office candidate from San Antonio, where Bennett served as chairman of the team’s board of governors. Bennett considered Spurs general manager R.C. Buford. However, Buford is entrenched with the franchise, while Presti is considered an ideal candidate to work with Wilkens.

“Whoever I pick, we’ll all work together,” Wilkens said. “I’ll have a lot of say, but what I want is, if I hire you, I’m going to give you that latitude to make good judgments. I want to be there to help.”

Presti has built a reputation as a talented scout and a salary-cap guru. Still, Wilkens will undoubtedly inquire about Presti’s knowledge of NBA coaches and how he might shape a team with a lineup that might include Ray Allen, free agent Rashard Lewis and Texas forward Kevin Durant.

“Anybody going there would have to think long and hard about those three and how you would incorporate them into the team,” said former Denver GM and ESPN analyst Kiki Vandeweghe. “Seattle is still a good job.”

Vandeweghe confirmed that he is not on Seattle’s short list. There is media speculation Wilkens interviewed former Orlando GM John Gabriel. However, a team source said Gabriel, who is consulting for Portland, isn’t a serious candidate.

Wilkens, who has talked just once publicly since taking the president’s job last month, spoke at length Tuesday about a variety of issues.

• He said Dave Pendergraft, the team’s director of basketball operations, and Steve Rosenberry, the director of college scouting, will return next season. Their contracts expire in 2008. Wilkens, however, did not give assurances to assistant coaches Jack Sikma and Ralph Lewis, who are attending the camp, or Detlef Schrempf and Gordon Chiesa.

• Wilkens isn’t opposed to trading any of the team’s three picks, including the No. 2 overall choice. There’s a chance he could package the two second-round picks (31 and 35) to move up in the draft for a higher pick or to acquire a veteran player.

• He said it’s not important to hire a coach before the draft. The Sonics had called Dallas about assistant Sam Vincent; however, he took the job in Charlotte before meeting with Seattle.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or

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