PHOENIX - The Phoenix Suns acquired Shaquille O'Neal in a stunning, blockbuster deal that sent four-time All-Star Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat.
The improbable pairing of the speedy Suns and the slow but once-mighty O'Neal became official when he cleared a physical exam yesterday.
O'Neal didn't talk to reporters, but he received a loud, long standing ovation when introduced on the big screen while watching the New Orleans-Phoenix game from a suite at US Airways Center.
First, he stood to acknowledge the cheers with both arms open. He sat down again, but as the cheers continued, he got up once more. He pointed to the championship ring he was wearing, then gave a thumbs up. The crowd went wild.
The trade, a dramatic move by first-year Phoenix general manager Steve Kerr, signals an unexpected change in philosophy for the Suns, adding a 7-foot-1-inch, 325-pound center who has won four NBA championships but has been plagued by injuries in recent years and turns 36 March 6.
O'Neal has been out with a hip injury and underwent an MRI in Miami Tuesday. He flew to Phoenix yesterday for the physical.
"I'm well aware that I'm on the line," Kerr said. "That's my job. That's why I'm sitting in this seat."
O'Neal has averaged 25.6 points and 11.5 rebounds in his 16 seasons. This season, plagued by injuries and going through a divorce, he's averaging 14.2 points. His 14-year streak as an All-Star choice came to an end this year.
"We have to move on with our team," Miami president and coach Pat Riley said. "This is not the most desirable place to be right now."
O'Neal will make $20 million this season and $20 million each of the next two. Marion makes $16.4 million this year and could opt out of the $17 million final year of his contract after this season.
O'Neal is leaving some unfinished business. Atlanta and Miami must replay the final 51.9 seconds of their Dec. 19 game in Atlanta March 8, but now O'Neal won't be with Miami. Thus the question: Will Marion and Banks be eligible? "The league doesn't know. They'll have to make a determination," Hawks general manager Billy Knight said.
The replay is necessary because the Hawks' official scorer ruled incorrectly that O'Neal fouled out.