Sunday, July 11, 2004

Agent: Shaq accepts trade

Heat set to send Odom, Butler and Grant to Lakers to complete deal by Wednesday

By Mike Branom
The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - Shaquille O'Neal would be happy to be traded to the Miami Heat.

That word came Saturday from O'Neal's agent, Perry Rogers, who told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that O'Neal has given his blessing to a deal that would send him to Miami.

"We've said that we would agree to a trade," Rogers said in a story posted Saturday night on the newspaper's Web site. "I think that's going to happen. I'd be very surprised if it didn't happen."

The deal, expected to include Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant going to Los Angeles, cannot be completed until Wednesday when a two-week leaguewide moratorium on trades and free agent signings expires.

"It's very serious. I think it's very close to getting done," said Grant's agent, Mark Bartelstein.

Greeted by reporters as he was leaving a gym near his Orlando mansion, O'Neal said he had not yet met with Heat president Pat Riley and declined to comment on a possible trade.

"I can't say anything about that today," said O'Neal, flashing a big smile.

But ESPN and the Sun-Sentinel reported that O'Neal joined his representatives for a three-hour meeting that included Riley and Heat general manager Randy Pfund.

O'Neal's contract runs for two more seasons with a combined salary of almost $59 million, and he was angered earlier this season when the Lakers refused to offer him an extension.

Rogers said the Heat had not discussed a new contract with O'Neal.

"No extension was agreed upon. That was never a condition for Shaquille," Rogers said. "He wanted to go to an environment that was a team environment. We feel confident that that's what Pat Riley and [owner] Micky Arison have created as a culture. This is the type of place that Shaquille would love to finish his career."

In Los Angeles, the formal announcement of Rudy Tomjanovich's hiring as the Lakers' new coach was partially overshadowed by the O'Neal trade talk and Kobe Bryant's free agency.

Bryant is free to sign with any NBA team as of July 14, and reports in Los Angeles have said he is giving serious consideration to signing with the Clippers. A trade of O'Neal, combined with coach Phil Jackson's departure, would appear to indicate the Lakers are doing all they can to placate Bryant in the hopes that he'll re-sign.

When O'Neal declared that he wanted out of Los Angeles just days after the Lakers lost the NBA finals to Detroit, he listed Miami as one of his preferred destinations.

Riley and Pfund did not attend the Heat's summer league game in Orlando on Saturday as they had done all week. A Heat spokesman said the team could not comment, because O'Neal was under contract with the Lakers.

Tomjanovich said he spoke with O'Neal, but declined to divulge any details. "I just hope all those things turn out well," he said.

Los Angeles general manager Mitch Kupchak said there was nothing new to report on O'Neal.

"I don't know how this is going to play out, I really don't," he said. "When there is something to report, we'll report it."

Kupchak said that he had not spoken with O'Neal or his representatives, but added: "Shaquille has a unique way of letting me know information I should know."

Last year, O'Neal averaged a career-low 21.5 points with 11.5 rebounds and 2.48 blocks.

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 NBA titles in Los Angeles, though he has maintained a residence in South Florida.

In 12 seasons, he has averaged 27.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.

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