The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to trade all-star center Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat in exchange for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant, according to O'Neal's agent.
"I can confirm that all the parties have agreed to the deal" said Perry Rodgers, O'Neal's agent, in a telephone interview last night. "It's all pending [league] approval but I can say everything has been agreed to."
Any deal would have to wait until Wednesday to be finalized because of the league's two-week moratorium on trades and free agent signings.
A person close to O'Neal said the 7-foot-1, 340-pound center is "ecstatic" about the move for several reasons. First, playing in the Eastern Conference is easier than passing through the gantlet that is the Western Conference. Second, Miami is a big enough market for O'Neal's outsized personality, and third, O'Neal believes playing alongside rookie point guard sensation Dwyane Wade means Miami will have the firepower to challenge for the NBA championship.
One Western Conference executive criticized the Lakers for not obtaining Wade in the deal.
"I can't see you making a deal with Miami in which you don't get Dwyane Wade," he said. "Not getting Wade is a failure for the Lakers."
The Lakers' willingness to accept none of the league's top 10 players or a young star such as Wade is indicative of how much they wanted to rid themselves of O'Neal and the public relations problems he presented if they went into the season with him still on the roster.
Once O'Neal was told he was not in the Lakers' plans, he was adamant about his trade request and began sniping at management through the media. The Lakers recently have been an unstable circus, but the most dominating player in the game taking shots at the front office did not bode well for a healthy offseason.
A trade had been expected since the Lakers were routed in the NBA Finals last month by the Detroit Pistons and it became obvious the Lakers had decided to rebuild around guard Kobe Bryant.
Bryant, a free agent whom the Lakers are trying to retain, feuded with O'Neal and then-coach Phil Jackson for years and presumably sought free agency to escape working with them in the future.
The Lakers began cleaning house three days after the finals when they let Jackson go. General Manager Mitch Kupchak then would not publicly commit to extending O'Neal's contract. Days after that, O'Neal demanded to be traded.
Executives from other teams said the Lakers appeared like they were looking to trade O'Neal before Wednesday, the day the moratorium ends and Bryant is free to sign a contract with another team. The Lakers apparently wanted O'Neal out by then in an effort to appease Bryant.
Interested teams such as Dallas, Phoenix and Miami offered less than full value for O'Neal in their initial offers, hoping the Lakers' executives, with their backs against the wall, could not afford to haggle.
Said one Western Conference executive, "I think [Bryant's] staying, but if the Lakers don't trade Shaq you never know what he may do."
This is the second move in two days for the Lakers, who hired former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich to replace Jackson. Tomjanovich told the Associated Press he had called O'Neal but declined to discuss what they talked about.
Last year, O'Neal averaged a career-low 21.5 points with 11.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game.
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 titles in Los Angeles, though he has maintained a residence in southern Florida.
In 12 seasons, he has averaged 27.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.