Miami’s Shaq could be headed to Phoenix Suns

MIAMI – Shaquille O’Neal is prepared for the Miami Heat to trade him, a confidant of the 14-time All-Star told The Associated Press and the Phoenix Suns were poised to deal two players for the center. O’Neal’s associate, who spoke on condition of anonymit

It could be happening soon. O’Neal was planning to be in Phoenix on Wednesday, which, according to several reports, is when the Suns plan to have him take a physical – presumably the final roadblock before the deal that will send Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to Miami gets finalized.

The Miami Herald reported earlier Tuesday that the Heat were in “serious and ongoing” trade negotiations with the Suns, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said the deal could occur “within 48 hours.” The Arizona Republic also reported a deal could be imminent and that O’Neal had contacted some Suns players Tuesday night.

A Heat spokesman said the team had no comment, and several Suns officials didn’t immediately return phone calls from the AP. The Suns did, however, push their morning shootaround practice back seven hours, perhaps because of the uncertainty over the O’Neal situation. Phoenix plays New Orleans on Wednesday night.

When asked last week about another report that a Shaq trade was possible, Heat coach Pat Riley said, “Not true.” But when the Los Angeles Lakers struck a deal with Memphis last week for 7-footer Pau Gasol and instantly strengthened their lineup, there’s been constant speculation about how other Western Conference teams would respond.

And a Shaq-to-the-Suns deal would certainly create plenty of buzz. “Really?” said the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, O’Neal’s former teammate, when told of the apparently pending deal. “I know he likes the warm weather.” O’Neal has two full seasons remaining after this one on his $100 million, five-year contract, and is averaging a career-low 14.2 points this season.

If the trade goes through as currently detailed, the Heat would have to make an additional roster move in order to stay at the 15-man limit. A four-time NBA champion, 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. (AP)

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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