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With Shaquille O'Neal now officially a member of the Miami Heat (subject only to the formality known as the physical), both he and the Heat organization are bending over backwards to make each other happy. It's a honeymoon, so what can you expect? O'Neal has promised Pat Riley he will come to training camp at or under the 10 percent body fat that is the Heat standard for big men, while Riley and GM Randy Pfund have brought in Michael Doleac to provide a backup center for Shaq, something he says he never really had. Free agents are flocking to Miami and fans are snapping up tickets. Let the good times roll!
Shaq and Eddie Jones reunite to form the Miami Lakers, only fitting for a division that already has the Orlando Rockets, Charlotte Clippers, and Washington Warriors. Dwyane Wade was apparently the only near-untouchable in the process and will be a staple for years. Doleac can not only sub for Shaq but can play limited minutes at the power forward spot if need be. His strength seems to be shooting 10-12 foot jumpers, so it is likely that Shaq will give him open looks from that range as defenders sag on Shaq.
But the real upside next year may be in Rasual Butler and Udonis Haslem. With the other Butler now in LA (though there are murmurs that the Lakers may look to move him, especially if they resign Kobe Bryant, to alleviate their logjam at the small forward spot), Rasual "Instant Offense" Butler is being given a huge change to shine. It's quite likely his game will fit well. Jones, of course, will be able to shoot spot-up jays all night long.
Haslem will have the same kind of benefit that all power forwards experience when they play with a great center like Shaq. If he focuses on offensive rebounds and the easy put backs, he will have a spectacular year.
The biggest priority for the Heat franchise may well be signing Shaq to an extension as soon as possible. They will then lock in the core of this team -- Shaq and Wade -- for enough time to build around them and make a serious run at a championship.
You can already buy Shaq's jersey in Miami black. For all Shaq gear, click here.
Greg Cote ofThe Miami Heraldwrites: Shaquille O'Neal will fly to Miami today to begin his Heat career. Nobody said whether he would require the use of an airplane. Presumably, he will arrive in town after settling that whole Iraq thing, organizing a square dance between Israelis and Palestinians, saving the Everglades and solving Josh Beckett's blister problem. Shaq's first act as king of South Florida will be to abolish humidity.His subsequent deliverance of an NBA title? That's a given. Only details remain, such as: Will the championship rings have diamond-encrusted palm trees?
Israel Gutierrez ofThe Miami Heraldwrites: The deal is done. The big fella is coming to Miami, and he's bringing the championship aspirations that come with him.The NBA has approved a trade that will send Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler and a future first-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers and Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat. Players on both sides of the trade still have to undergo physical exams, but that is considered a formality at this point.
Ira Winderman ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: The Heat somewhat protected its future in the transaction. The earliest the first-round pick can go to the Lakers is in 2006, and that only is if it is not among the 14 lottery selections.Otherwise, it would go to Los Angeles in 2007 if not among the first 10, in 2008 if not among the first six, in 2009 if not among the first three, or in 2010 unconditionally.
Dave Hyde ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: O'Neal told Riley he was at 15 percent body fat and asked where the Heat wanted him.Riley said they could have that conversation later. O'Neal pressed. "I said, `We want our perimeter players at 8 percent or under,'" Riley said. "And I said, `We want our big guys at 10 percent.' I heard silence. But it was a good silence. He said, `Coach, I'll be there.'" Then Riley said not to hold Shaq to that. So we'll see. Riley already is showing how to earn the big guy's trust.
Dave Hyde ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelcontinues: "One thing Shaq said the other day is he's never had a backup center," he [Riley] said. Presto, the Heat signed Michael Doleac on Tuesday, just the sort of backup center that several teams wanted and O'Neal never had.The gamble is the Heat can add enough role pieces like Doleac to catch Detroit. The
Harvey Fialkov ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: Riley made it clear that the Heat only has its $1.6 million salary exception and approximately $2.5 million remaining of its mid-level exception for remaining free agents to help fill in the spaces left vacant by the departures of Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and point guard Rafer Alston... The trickle-down effect from O'Neal's signing has agents waiting at the phone for Heat GM Randy Pfund to return their calls.The client list includes forwards Horry, Toni Kukoc, Rodney Rogers and guards Anthony Johnson, Lindsey Hunter, Mike James, Steve Smith, Bob Sura, Travis Best and Mateen Cleaves.
Sarah Talalay ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: The Heat's trade for Shaquille O'Neal didn't become official until Wednesday, but the center from the Los Angeles Lakers began making a historic impact on the team's business operations as soon as rumors of the trade surfaced last week... Sales people worked through the weekend and have put in long hours.In fact, an enterprising fan purchased a 16-game miniplan by telephone at 3 a.m. Sunday -- a plan the team has since stopped selling in the wake of ticket demand.