Sales Makes Pitch

If there's anything Nykesha Sales enjoys as much as bouncing a basketball, it's bouncing around. One day she's in Puerto Rico for an AAU event, the next day she's back at her condo in Orlando, Fla. One day she's in New York for a WNBA event, the next in Denver for NBA All-Star weekend, playing an exhibition game with goofy celebrities and hitting the town at night.

So with all she does, and all she's done, since her high school days in Bloomfield and college days at UConn, would it really be hard to envision Sales, 28, moving on from the Connecticut Sun? She hopes to stay put, driving home her point Monday as she sat on a black carpet in the middle of Mohegan Sun Arena, doodling with crayons left behind by a child, saying she would love to end her career in the building.

``It would be nice to finish here, definitely,'' Sales said during Sun media day. ``I really like it here. I'm so comfortable with this organization now. But you never know.''

Sales' three-year contract, signed amid a somewhat contentious beginning with Sun management in 2003, expires after this season. If she and the Sun do not agree on an extension, Sales would become an unrestricted free agent. Sun general manager Chris Sienko said that ensuring Sales remains with the Sun for the long term is among his priorities. He also said he called Sales' agent about a month ago to begin discussing an extension for the five-time All-Star.

But there's a catch. The Sun might bank on Sales' desire to stay put and allow her to become a free agent.

The expansion draft for Chicago, set for next off-season, will allow the Sun to protect six players. The Sun are waiting for word from the league regarding Chicago's ability to draft a free agent. If the Sun were assured Sales did not want to change teams, they could protect six other players and re-sign Sales during the free agent period, essentially protecting seven players.

``That's the tricky thing,'' Sienko said. ``You can only protect six players. What hasn't been clarified yet is, if a player is a free agent and selected, does she automatically go to that team?

``If she's a free agent, anybody has the right to you. If you leave her out there, how does Chicago keep her? If she wants to play here, you might be better off leaving her as a free agent. If she wants to come back here, they can draft her but I ultimately have the opportunity to sign her.''

But is it worth the risk? What if Sales, in her prime and certain to draw interest from other teams, decides to bounce?

``I don't know that it's a risk I would want to take,'' Sienko said. ``She's very important to the team, and if something were to go awry, I don't think that would be worth it for us.''

This might be moot if Sales signs before this season ends. Sienko would like to sign her to a three-year extension, and Sales said she would gladly accept another three-year deal just under the league maximum of about $90,000 a year.

But for Sales, who never has been able to test the free agent waters, there is a certain amount of intrigue.

``You would hope that maybe the Sun will put me in the position that I won't be enticed,'' Sales said. ``If they come to me and say, `We want you to be here for the next three years,' then those teams won't have a chance and I won't be enticed to do that. I would hope that they wouldn't even let me see those opportunities.''

Sales has led the Sun in scoring each of the past two seasons. Somewhat inconsistent and admittedly complacent with the Orlando Miracle, Sales has thrived in Connecticut under coach Mike Thibault, nearly single-handedly delivering a title last year with a Finals-record 32 points in Game 2 against Seattle.

``The question has always been, `Do you want Nykesha here?'And my answer has always been, `Yes,''' Thibault said. ``That's my involvement. I can't fathom that she would want to play somewhere else. I don't think that's going to change.''