The deal is just about done. Following rumors of a trade, 15-time NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal is reportedly headed for Cleveland in a deal that frees up some cash for the Phoenix Suns.
The Cavs are sending Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic and a second-round pick in Thursday’s (June 25) draft to the Suns. The deal was reached late last night and is expected to be finalized today.
By acquiring Shaq, the Cavs hope the aging O’Neal, who is entering the final season of his contract, can help give Lebron the supporting cast he needs for his best shot at a title, after a disappointing Eastern Conference Finals series in which he lost against the Orlando Magic, ending their hopes at reaching the Finals — which they were expected to reach after ending the regular season with the best record in the NBA.
However, critics question whether Shaq alone will help King James complete that task. After all, his move to Phoenix backfired and the Suns didn’t even make the playoffs. Simply put, O’Neal is not the same player he was when he was winning three titles with the Lakers from 2000-02.
“They didn’t give up anything for him in terms of main rotation players,” said one Eastern Conference president. “So that’s good. But Shaq doesn’t give them size in their backcourt to match up with the Magic. And as for being someone who can guard Dwight Howard, Shaq can’t do that. The Magic are still better, depending on what happens in free agency.”
TNT analyst gave this senerio on how the match-up with Lebron and Shaq could work: “If Shaq is willing to accept a subsidiary role to LeBron James — how can he not? — and get out of the way when the James Express gets up a head of steam down the lane, the Cavaliers could have some offensive success. If Shaq can accept the fact that minutes, perhaps entire quarters, may go by when he doesn’t get so much as a sniff of the ball, the Cavs could have some offensive options down the stretches of games other than clearouts for LBJ (though, thinking about it, that’s been a pretty effective play).”
James could enter free agency in 2010, so another missed Finals would be reason for the King to leave Cleveland. But if the Shaq team-up proves to work, it could keep him there.
James can extend his contract this summer. But he is expected to wait to see what the Cavs do to increase his chances of winning a title. Since joining Cleveland in 2003, he has made it to one Finals, in 2007, losing to the Spurs in four games. The Suns, meanwhile, are in a cost-cutting mode and decided that O’Neal’s $21 million salary was worth dumping.
Word is Shaq found out he was being traded through Twitter.