Heat C O'Neal to be dealt to Suns

Feb 6, 2008 - 7:30 AM BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal will be traded to the Phoenix Suns if he passes a physical on Wednesday to complete one of the most improbable trades in NBA history, ESPN reported on Tuesday night.

The report said the Miami Heat agreed to trade O'Neal - who will travel to Phoenix for the physical - to the Suns for forward Shawn Marion and point guard Marcus Banks.

It was the latest turn in a whirlwind night for O'Neal, whose rumored trade was reported by numerous sources earlier Tuesday and reportedly took just hours to complete.

The deal seemed imminent when sources close to the Suns confirmed to Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum, who spent the 2005-06 season with the team, that rumors of O'Neal being dealt were accurate.

The Miami Herald originally reported the deal on its web site Tuesday evening, saying the future Hall of Fame center was on his way out of "South Beach" and on his way to the "Valley of the Sun" but did not specify how close the sides were.

A plodding and oft-injured big man in the late stages of his career, O'Neal would be an awkward fit with Phoenix, which plays at an up-tempo pace and is known for its philosophy of taking a shot within the first seven seconds of the shot clock.

SI said on its web site that the Heat made the initial calls because the relationship between O'Neal and team president and coach Pat Riley has become strained.

That may be because of the dismal season in Miami, which owns a league-worst 7-37 record just two campaigns removed from a championship.

The money would work under the salary cap. O'Neal makes $20 million, which is close to the combined salaries of Marion ($16.4 million) and Banks ($3.9 million).

SI.com also said, citing its anonymous source, that the Heat are worried about the final year of O'Neal's contract - which pays him $20 million each of the next two seasons - but the details most likely can be worked out.

But before the deal can be consummated, the web site reported that Miami will want Marion - who can opt out of his contract after this season - to agree to the deal. He vetoed a potential trade between the Suns and Boston Celtics this summer, SI.com stated.

However, most of the questions rest with O'Neal, who turns 36 next month and is battling nagging injuries - including hip bursitis. The 11-time All-Star has played just 32 contests this season and is averaging a career-low 14.2 points to go with 7.8 rebounds.

The report said Phoenix is not worried about adding the hobbled O'Neal to the roster because it seldom runs a five-man fast break - implying that the 7-1, 330-pounder would not slow it down.

Marion, for his part, is one of the NBA's most athletic forwards who has thrived in the Suns' system. However, he has become disgruntled in recent seasons with the attention directed toward superstars Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

The 29-year-old Marion, who is a four-time All-Star, has averaged 15.8 points and 9.9 rebounds this season for Phoenix.

Banks, 26, has averaged 5.2 points and 1.0 assist as a backup to Nash. After this season, he has three years left on his contract worth a total of $13.4 million.

The move would be the second big trade in four days in the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Lakers acquired former All-Star center Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.

Most likely looking for a defensive presence to deal with Gasol, the Suns want O'Neal to man the middle so they can move Stoudemire to power forward.

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