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Friday, June 26, 2009

Cavs to acquire Shaq from Suns

CLEVELAND (AP) The Cleveland Cavaliers are close to acquiring center Shaquille O'Neal in a trade with the Phoenix Suns, a person with knowledge of the deal said on Thursday.

News photo
Going that way: Shaquille O'Neal will join the Cleveland Cavaliers following a trade from the Phoenix Suns. AP PHOTO

The teams have reached an agreement in principle on the deal, which would unite O'Neal with Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, the NBA's MVP.

O'Neal will join Cleveland in exchange for center Ben Wallace, guard Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round draft pick (No. 46 overall) and cash, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the league still must approve the deal.

Yahoo! Sports first reported the deal.

The trade, which the sides had been discussing for months, gives the Suns financial flexibility in the future. O'Neal has just one season left on a $20 million contract and Wallace, who ended last season saying he may retire, is in the final year of a $14 million deal.

In Cleveland, O'Neal could be the missing piece for James to win a first championship. The 211-cm hoops icon certainly gives the city a surge of star power.

O'Neal's addition gives Cleveland some much needed size in its frontcourt. The Cavs couldn't stop Orlando center Dwight Howard in the Eastern Conference finals, losing the series in six games and seeing a 66-win regular season and deep playoff run come up short.

O'Neal can still bang inside, which is why Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry tried to acquire him before the trading deadline in February.

The Suns were a West-leading 34-14 when they acquired O'Neal in February 2008. He averaged 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds last season and appeared in his 15th All-Star game, stealing the show with a goofy dance during pregame introductions at U.S. Airways Center.

O'Neal answered to "the Big Cactus" in the desert, but the plodding 147-kg pivot seemed a strange fit with the up-tempo Suns.

Popular coach Mike D'Antoni, who reportedly pushed management to acquire Shaq, left at the end of O'Neal's first season. D'Antoni was replaced by Terry Porter, who was fired in midseason after a failed attempt to get the team to play better defense.

The Suns won one playoff game in O'Neal's 1 1/2 seasons — and last spring they failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2004.

Soon after the season ended, speculation began to grow that the club was looking to deal O'Neal while his trade value was still high.



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