Cavaliers finish deal for O’Neal
The Cavaliers completed a blockbuster trade yesterday, acquiring Shaquille O’Neal from the Phoenix Suns in hopes he can help LeBron James deliver Cleveland its first major pro championship in 45 years.
Hours before an NBA draft that figured to be overshadowed by the Shaq-to-the-Cavs move, the reality of James playing with O’Neal, a 15-time All-Star, was just sinking in.
“Shaq is an incredible ballplayer and a four-time NBA champion,’’ James said in a statement. “I have a lot of respect for him and his game. It will be a real honor to play with Shaq as my teammates and I look forward to another great season with the Cavs.’’
The Cavaliers sent center Ben Wallace and swingman Sasha Pavlovic to the Suns, along with a second-round pick in the 2010 draft and $500,000 in cash, for the 37-year-old O’Neal, who won three straight titles from 2000-02 with Bryant and the Lakers. His fourth title came with Dwyane Wade and Miami in 2006.
“Our goals are aligned with what our players want, including LeBron, and that’s to win a championship and win it next year,’’ said Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry. “We don’t want to be patient. We want to be a team that has sustainable success.’’
O’Neal is coming off an All-Star season with the Suns, averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds in 75 games, but there were times he clogged Phoenix’s high-powered offense under coaches Mike D’Antoni, Terry Porter, and Alvin Gentry. Still, the 7-foot-1-inch, 325-pounder can be a defensive stopper.
“He is a force,’’ Ferry said. “Always has been, still is. He’s a wall around the basket - a tall, long wall. Offensively, he’s going to get double-teamed. He’s a good passer. He’s a great receiver . . . He’s a smart basketball player and he’s a guy that our guys will respect. I think it’s going to work very well.’’
The trade gives the Magic another star in a lineup that already includes Howard and Rashard Lewis. The deal may also convince Hedo Turkoglu, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent Wednesday, to remain with the Magic.
“Vince gives us a veteran, go-to scoring presence, especially at the end of games,’’ Orlando GM Otis Smith said in a statement. “Our goal remains the same - to win a championship. Any time you can add an All-Star to help you reach your goals, you have to do it.’’
Carter found out about the trade at his basketball camp, adding he thought it was a joke at first. “Every player hopes for an opportunity like this, to just once compete for an NBA championship,’’ he said. “This a dream come true for me. Now I have a chance to win a championship.’’