O'Neal trade talks Heat up

Posted: Monday, July 12, 2004

MIAMI Expect to see Shaquille O'Neal in a Miami Heat uniform next season.

His agent does.

Perry Rogers, said Sunday a blockbuster deal between the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers is imminent and could be official Wednesday when the NBA's two-week player movement moratorium expires.

''It still can't officially be done, of course, but I can tell you we're confident that this will move forward,'' Rogers told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday. ''We're excited about the prospects. We're confident that Shaquille will be moving to Miami soon.''

Miami is expected to send a package that includes Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, one other player perhaps Caron Butler and a first-round draft choice to Los Angeles in exchange for the 7-foot-1, 340-pound O'Neal, who demanded a trade shortly after the Lakers lost the NBA Finals to Detroit.

Rogers said he did not know which players the Lakers and Heat have agreed to swap.

''What's been agreed to by (Heat president) Pat Riley and (Lakers GM) Mitch Kupchak, I have not been privy to,'' Rogers said.

Both teams, through spokesmen, declined comment Sunday. Calls placed to agents for Odom and Grant were not returned, nor was one seeking comment from O'Neal, whose contract runs for two more seasons at a combined total of almost $59 million.

O'Neal met with Riley on Saturday and agreed to a trade. Rogers insisted that the 11-time All-Star is not demanding that Riley who resigned as Miami's coach days before last season began and promoted his longtime assistant, Stan Van Gundy return to the sidelines as part of the deal.

''Stan is a great coach,'' Rogers said. ''He had a great year. It's not even a consideration that Stan wouldn't be the coach.''

Miami went 42-40 last season, despite not getting a single 20-point game out of the 6-foot-9 Grant, a natural power forward who was the Heat's starter at center out of necessity.

Riley entered the offseason saying upgrading in the post was the franchise's top priority and when O'Neal included Miami on his list of desirable destinations, the Heat responded.

''We need somebody who's got some bulk, some wide shoulders, takes up some space, has some athleticism to him,'' Riley said in a meeting with reporters on May 21.

O'Neal certainly meets those standards, and would give Miami the cornerstone center Riley has sought to build a franchise around.

O'Neal would add to a mix that should include Olympian Dwyane Wade and Eddie Jones, the team's leading scorer in each of the last four seasons.

Plus, Miami would still have its $5.1 million mid-level salary cap exemption and another $1.6 million cap exemption available to lure free agents and attempt to fill the holes left by the trade.

''Shaquille's excited about this and we hope that it's something that gets announced as soon as it can become official,'' Rogers said.

Last year, O'Neal averaged a career-low 21.5 points with 11.5 rebounds and 2.48 blocks. Over 12 seasons, he has averaged 27.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.

O'Neal began his NBA career with Orlando, leading the Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995. He signed with the Lakers as a free agent after the 1995-96 season and won three NBA titles and three Finals MVPs.



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