'Shaq' reportedly traded to Cleveland
By TOM WITHERS
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers are close to acquiring center Shaquille O'Neal in a trade that would pair him with MVP LeBron James, multiple people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press early this morning.
The Cavs and Phoenix Suns have reached an agreement in principle on the deal, which gives Cleveland two of the league's biggest superstars.
O'Neal will join Cleveland in exchange for center Ben Wallace, guard Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round pick (No. 46 overall in today's draft) and cash, said the two people 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 is in the final year of a $14 million deal.
The Suns save $10 million on the deal, half of it by lowering their payroll below the luxury tax limit. They plan to buy out Pavlovic, who has $1.5 million of his $4.95 million contract guaranteed.
Phoenix, which also gets $500,000 in cash from the Cavs, might save even more if Wallace decides to accept a buyout. The big center reportedly is considering retirement after battling injuries the last few seasons.
Owner Robert Sarver, whose banking and real estate interests have suffered in the economic downturn, said last Saturday that he didn't mind paying a luxury tax for a good team. But Phoenix failed to make the playoffs, and the Suns are in the midst of what amounts to a rebuilding effort.
In Cleveland, O'Neal could be the missing piece for James to win a first championship. The 7-foot hoops icon known best as "Shaq," certainly gives the city a surge of star power.
O'Neal's addition also provides Cleveland with 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. Ferry and Suns GM Steve Kerr are former NBA teammates and good friends.