The NBA's national signing day had the expected -- Larry Hughes is now officially a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers; Kwame Brown, officially in Los Angeles Lakers' purple and gold -- and the surprising -- Shaquille O'Neal accepting an almost $10 million pay cut to remain in Miami, and a five-team, 13-player trade that was the biggest in league history.
Forward Antoine Walker was the centerpiece of the deal, going from Boston to Miami. The Heat also acquired point guard Jason Williams and small forward James Posey from Memphis, while the Grizzlies received guard Eddie Jones from the Heat. The New Orleans Hornets and Utah Jazz were also involved.
The Big Diesel's big discount still amounted to a hefty pact for the Heat, which will pay O'Neal $100 million over the next five years -- the largest contract signed this summer by far -- and keep the 7-foot-1, 327-pound center in uniform until he turns 38. O'Neal, a three-time NBA Finals MVP who led the team to the Eastern Conference finals in his first year with the team, opted out of a contract that would have paid him $30.6 million this season in hopes that he would keep the Heat from luxury tax territory and give the team the flexibility to remain a contender for as long as he dwells on South Beach.
The Cavaliers made a big splash this summer, with the acquisitions of Hughes and forward Donyell Marshall, and the re-signing of center Zydrunas Ilgauskas to complement LeBron James. Hughes is believed to have signed a five-year contract worth about $60 million, but the deal could balloon to about $70 million with easily attainable incentives, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Hughes was unavailable for comment yesterday but will be introduced as a Cavalier at a news conference tomorrow. Cleveland's recruitment of Hughes included a visit from new coach Mike Brown, who flew to St. Louis to have lunch with Hughes, his wife, Carrie, and his two children.
"Larry is one of the game's most versatile young talents and his all-around game, including on the defensive end, will complement the rest of our core players for years to come," Cavaliers General Manager Danny Ferry said. "He just turned 26 and with seven years experience in the league, is just entering the prime of his career. We feel the combination of Larry and LeBron has the potential to be something special."
Player signings and trades had been delayed twice since the NBA and the players' union agreed in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement in June. Once the league's moratorium was lifted at noon yesterday, the NBA's attorneys were backed up having to approve several deals.
The Wizards completed a deal that would send forwards Brown and Laron Profit to the Lakers for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins.
"Kwame was the number one pick here and it probably didn't work out the way he would've liked or we would've liked, but we wish him the best," Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said. "Sometimes a new beginning is good for everyone and we feel we have two very solid players for him."