Pfund and Van Gundy Extended as Shaq Countdown Continues

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

About a minute after midnight tonight, the process of bringing Shaquille O'Neal to Miami officially gets underway. The two teams will call the league office and schedule a conference call to go over the details. But the details are secondary. The big picture is the Big Aristotle. Shaq will be coached by recently-extended head coach Stan Van Gundy and presided over by recently-extended GM Randy Pfund. The timing of those announcements yesterday were clearly intended to signal that Pat Riley will remain in the front offices and will not be returning to coach.

Rumors continue to swirl that O'Neal will bring not only instant championship credibility but also a host of interested free agents looking to ride his coattails. Everybody loves playing with Shaq -- everybody perhaps except Kobe Bryant. He is the big guy that even All-Star Paul Pierce of the longtime rival Celtics dreams about playing with. He is a draw for anybody and though the Heat still have just the two salary-cap exceptions left to sign free agents (the mid-level and the lower-level), they may be able to benefit from bringing in veterans interested in playing alongside the big guy. Even Gary Payton is now looking to get out of the last year of his contract in LA to potentially join the Heat.

But what about the castoffs? Lamar Odom hasn't yet stated his emotions but they must be mixed. On the one hand, he still has a base of family and friends in LA, and Bryant is reportedly a good friend of his. But he has seemingly gotten used and spit out by the franchise in the past year. From having his intended coach Pat Riley step down at the beginning of the season to being traded back to the same arena he played in as a Clipper must have been one whirly dervish of a trip. In Miami, he resurrected his career, showing the world that he is one of the premier versatile bigmen in the league, up there with a healthy Chris Webber and Kevin Garnett. Boy, if the Heat could have kept him... oh well.

Caron Butler and the Heat were both elated when he dropped to them in the tenth spot two years ago in the draft but now it seems it is the Lakers who should be elated. While last season was not his best due to injuries, he is apparently taking the news pretty hard. He had been hoping to bounce back this coming season and be a Heat player for a long time to come, but it was not to be.

Brian Grant has moved around often enough, and his attitude is positive enough, that he is probably okay with the trade, though I haven't heard specifically what he is feeling. He has just always struck me as the consummate professional and player, and though there's probably no question that he's overpaid, he is still a solid contributor at the center or the power forward spot, and he is not just cap-filler for the Lakers. There's a reason they chose Grant over Eddie Jones: they need Grant to play and play as well as he ever has if they want to have a chance to make the playoffs.

By tomorrow morning, those three Heat players will be Lakers, and Shaquille O'Neal will be in Miami. Good night, Miami!

A bare majority of readers atThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelvoted that the Heat did NOT give away too much for Shaquille O'Neal (56.9%, about 2800 votes).

For a comprehensive list of summer league results, view yesterday's NEWS@ Southeast report here.


Ira Winderman ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: The Heat signed off on two deals Monday and denied rumors about another. On any other day, extensions for coach Stan Van Gundy and General Manager Randy Pfund would have generated their own significant buzz, as would the insistence by owner Micky Arison that "the team is not for sale, period." But this is not just any other day, at least not the next 24 hours. Tonight, just after midnight, the Heat will begin the process of signing off on arguably the biggest transaction in the franchise's 17 seasons -- the acquisition of center Shaquille O'Neal.

Harvey Fialkov ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: The trade for Shaquille O'Neal is on hold until Wednesday, but that didn't prevent Heat General Manager Randy Pfund from beginning the process of finding a supporting cast. With the Diesel coming aboard, the Heat's next priority has to be at point guard and forward because of the exodus of point guard Rafer Alston to the Raptors, and front-court stalwarts Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian Grant to Los Angeles.The Heat's spending money for free agents remains the same, the $1.6 million lower salary exception for one player and the $5.4 million mid-level exception for either one upper-tier free agent or split between two serviceable players... A more realistic option at the point could be among veterans Lindsey Hunter, Anthony Johnson, Damon Jones, Troy Hudson or possibly former Heat guard Mike James, whom the Pistons don't seem to have an interest in re-signing.

Dave Hyde ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: People, what are you smoking? This is a hands-down, clear-cut, no-doubt, close-your-mouth-and-open-your-mind, no-brainer of a trade.The Heat was uniquely blessed by everything from the Lakers' missteps to being in the Eastern Conference to getting loads of sunshine. So let's dismiss the concerns one by one.

Israel Gutierrez ofThe Miami Heraldwrites: The Heat announced that coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Randy Pfund signed contract extensions, temporarily putting to rest speculation that team president Pat Riley would return to the sideline to coach O'Neal. While the extensions, terms of which were not disclosed, were being negotiated well before O'Neal entered the picture for the Heat, the timing of the announcement signals that Riley's intentions are to stay in the front office and allow his former assistant of eight years to continue coaching the team.

Dan Le Batard ofThe Miami Heraldwrites: Shaq turned a marginal talent such as Derek Fisher into a champion in Los Angeles, making him more relevant than his talents deserved to be. He prolonged the spent careers of Robert Horry and Rick Fox. He's going to make Eddie Jones better, and Dwyane Wade is going to take a giant leap next season, too... A good big man is the hardest piece to find in this sport. That's why teams are paying millions upon millions for stiff nobodies like Brian Skinner and Mark Blount and Brian Cardinal. And Miami just got the best one in the galaxy without giving up an All-Star.

Sam Smith ofThe Chicago Tribunewrites: Jordan, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, has been in discussions with Heat ownership about joining the organization as an owner.Although there was no other confirmation, it makes sense for both Jordan and David Stern, NBA commissioner. Stern has been trying to get Jordan back into the NBA in an ownership position ever since Jordan's attempt to buy the Milwaukee Bucks failed last year.

The Associated Press write inThe Calgary Sun: In the wake of a report Michael Jordan is interested in buying the Miami Heat, team owner Micky Arison said yesterday the franchise is not for sale.Arison was out of town but responded to the report through a Heat spokesman. According to the Chicago Tribune, an unidentified source said Jordan has been in discussions with the Heat about joining the organization as an owner. Jordan's representatives at SFX did nothing to refute the report. 

Jon Krawczynsski of The Associated Press writes inThe Ledger: Luke Recker watched prep stars and college underclassmen dominate the early part of the NBA draft this year. It wasn't too long ago that Recker, a high school All-American, figured to be following a similar path... He got a tryout with the Miami Heat as an undrafted rookie and was cut on the final day of training camp."I was very close, too close," Recker said. "Alonzo Mourning was sick with his kidneys, so they had to pick a big guy up and release a guard, and that was me."