Heat Offer Fans Chance to Send Fond Farewell

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

In a move that has been called unprecedented, the Miami Heat are letting fans email the Heat players traded to the Lakers to receive Shaq. You can email Brian Grant, Caron Butler, and Lamar Odom in Los Angeles to wish they well, bid them good luck, or just thank them for their effort.

Of course, you can send them any email you like, positive or negative. The link ishere.

The bigger news is that LA hasn't offered anything even remotely similar for Shaquille. But for once let's step outside of Shaq's enormous eclipse-like shadow and let the light focus on the players that until a few weeks ago we had thought were at least the core if not the future of this franchise.

Odom had a career year in Miami despite the fact that his preferred coach stepped aside. He thought he was leaving LA for good; it turned out to only be one year.

Butler was a steal at the tenth pick in the draft, and he could have developed into a Paul Pierce-like steal for the Heat. He still may develop into an All-Star in LA though it would be hard to see him ever crawl out of Kobe's shadow, which in its own way is almost as enveloping as Shaq's. Butler seems poised to at most be a Scottie Pippen to Kobe's Michael Jordan.

Grant was a consummate professional for his entire career, playing through pain and against taller, heavier opponents, and doing anything and everything to help the team win. He's getting up there in years now but he and Vlade Divac will form the old-timer's centers support group. If Grant and Divac find some playing time together on the court, Grant could have another good year, as his size is more naturally suited to playing the 4-spot than the 5.

And who knows who the future first round draft pick will be. There's no way to send an email into the ether with a "General Delivery" stamp. But whoever it is, they'll never know it, but they were once almost a Heat.

The St. Petersburg Times notes: Tampa Bay residents can buy tickets now to see Shaquille O'Neal in a Heat uniform at the St. Pete Times Forum on Oct. 15, when Miami plays the Orlando Magic in a preseason game. O'Neal, the former Lakers (and Magic) center, was traded to the Heat this month, making the team an instant favorite for an NBA championship. Tickets for the 8 p.m. game are available at the St. Pete Times Forum ticket office, at and all Ticketmaster outlets and by phone at (813) 287-8844 or (727) 898-2100.


Chris Perkins ofThe Palm Beach Postwrites: This is one of the things Shaquille O'Neal does: He brings people together.Even people who aren't Heat fans, or even aren't basketball fans, are curious about a 7-foot-1, 340-pound, larger-than-life, 32-year-old kid... To a few South Florida residents, however, the hoopla regarding O'Neal, the Heat's new center, is too much already. Such as the huge banner draped over AmericanAirlines Arena, the stage on the steps of the AAA on Tuesday, O'Neal's arrival in an 18-wheeler, the red carpet, confetti, the presence of the mayors of Miami and Miami-Dade County.

Stephen F. Holder ofThe Miami Heraldwrites: The Heat filled a pressing need Thursday by signing Los Angeles Clippers free agent Keyon Dooling as a backup point guard. Equally important, Miami didn't compromise its ability to land another impact player or two. With the athletic Fort Lauderdale Dillard High graduate signing a minimum-salary deal -- slightly more than $745,000 for the four-year veteran -- the Heat remains fairly flexible with $2.5 million available from its midlevel exception and the entire smaller cap exception, worth $1.6 million. ''We still have some options,'' general manager Randy Pfund said. Miami probably will use the money to solidify its front line, with Udonis Haslem, Malik Allen and Michael Doleac currently the only other rotation players under contract to play alongside center Shaquille O'Neal in the frontcourt.

Harvey Fialkov ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: Heat President Pat Riley has publicly expressed his sorrow and gratitude to the players he traded to the Los Angeles Lakers to bring superstar center Shaquille O'Neal to South Florida.In a unique gesture on Thursday, the Heat invited its fans to log onto the team's Web site ( and send messages of appreciation to Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant. About 3,000 miles west, there have been no such offers emanating from the Lakers regarding O'Neal's departure. In fact, one local radio host, Roger Lodge, has called for the public burning of O'Neal's Lakers jersey, while another has bid the Big Diesel good riddance.