|NBA's fastest team on verge of adding slow, once-mighty giant|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 06 February 2008 00:20|
The improbable pairing of the Phoenix Suns and Shaquille O'Neal went from rumor to near-reality overnight with several media outlets reporting that the big center would be here Wednesday for a physical.
On Tuesday night, the Suns pushed back their scheduled shootaround on Wednesday from 9:45 a.m. MST to 4:45 p.m., shortly before they face the New Orleans Hornets.
The deal would send unhappy forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks to the Heat.
It would also signal an unexpected change in philosophy for the Suns, adding a 7-foot-1, 325-pound center who has won four NBA championships but has been plagued by injuries in recent years and turns 36 next month. O'Neal has been out with a hip injury and underwent an MRI exam in Miami on Tuesday.
darlings of NBA fans grown weary of the slow style that has prevailed for years. But the Suns have fallen short in the playoffs, never even making it to the finals.
Marion, unhappy being third fiddle to Nash and Amare Stoudemire, asked to be traded before the season began. Stoudemire, meanwhile, dislikes playing out of position at center. The Suns have the best record in the West (34-14) but have not played up to their own or fans' expectations.
O'Neal is prepared for a trade, a confidant of his told The Associated Press on Tuesday night.
O'Neal's associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal anything publicly, said a deal could be imminent.
``Shaq thinks something will happen,'' the associate said.
He didn't speak to reporters before leaving Miami's practice. The Heat play at Detroit on Wednesday.
The Miami Herald reported earlier Tuesday that the Heat are in ``serious and ongoing'' trade negotiations with the Suns, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said the deal could occur ``within 48 hours.'' A Heat spokesman said the team had no comment.
ESPN.com said that only the physical stood in the way of the trade being finalized. Suns general manager Steve Kerr, owner Robert Sarver and coach Mike D'Antoni did not return messages left on their cell phones by the AP.
Speaking Tuesday night on his weekly radio show on Sports 620 KTAR, D'Antoni professed to know nothing about such a deal. However, he said such an acquisition would ``mean a lot.''
``That's a big question that has to be thought over and pondered,'' he said.
The Arizona Republic also said a deal could be imminent and that O'Neal had contacted some Suns players Tuesday night.
If Shaq came back to the Pacific Division, he would join a team that has an intense rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers and O'Neal's old teammate Kobe Bryant.
``Really?'' Bryant said when told of the apparently pending deal. ``I know he likes the warm weather.''
The trade would require a significant financial commitment from the budget-conscious Sarver because O'Neal is scheduled to make $20 million this season and $20 million more each of the next two.
Marion could opt out of the $17 million final year of his contract after this season.
O'Neal entered this season talking about how he wanted to win at least one more title, saying his ``legacy'' wouldn't be complete unless he left the game with at least five rings.
The Heat, though, have lost 19 of their last 20 games and have the NBA's worst record at 9-37.
O'Neal, averaging a career-low 14.2 points per game, is going through a divorce and his scoring average is nearly 11 1/2 points below his 25.6 career mark. His string of 14 All-Star appearance ended this season.
He missed much of the 2006-07 season with a knee injury and finished that year with career-lows in games (40), scoring (17.3 points), rebounds (7.4), minutes (28.4) and free-throw percentage (.422).
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.