Center is excited about Wade, Riley

Warm weather. Smaller centers. A star guard. Pat Riley. Life in South Florida sounds mighty nice to Shaquille O'Neal.

The much talked-about blockbuster trade between the Lakers and Heat involving the NBA's most dominant force has become all but a reality.

"I can confirm that all the parties have agreed to the deal," O'Neal's agent, Perry Rogers, told the Washington Post in a telephone interview Saturday night. "It's all pending [league] approval, but I can say everything has been agreed to."

Also, the Los Angeles Times, citing team and league sources, reported on its Web site Saturday night that the Lakers have agreed in principle to the deal.

As first reported by ESPN's David Aldridge on Saturday, O'Neal had agreed to accept a proposed trade that would send him to Miami in exchange for guard Caron Butler, forwards Lamar Odom and Brian Grant and a future draft pick. The Miami Herald on Saturday night reported that the Lakers will receive a first-rounder in 2006 or later.

The deal cannot be completed until Wednesday, when a two-week leaguewide moratorium on trades and free agent signings expires.

"It still can't officially be done, of course, but I can tell you we're confident that this will move forward,'' Rogers told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday. "We're excited about
the prospects. We're confident that Shaquille will be moving to Miami soon."

Realistically, the Lakers have been left with only this proposal from the Heat, as there are no other prospective deals on which O'Neal has signed off.

Dallas was the early front-runner to acquire O'Neal, but a Mavericks source seemed resigned Saturday to O'Neal's going to Miami. The source said that if the Heat can work out a contract extension for O'Neal when his current deal expires in two years, there is nothing the Mavs can do to thwart the trade.

Rogers said the Heat had not discussed a new contract with O'Neal.

"No extension was agreed upon. That was never a condition for Shaquille," Rogers told The Associated Press. "He wanted to go to an environment that was a team environment. We feel confident that that's what Pat Riley and [Heat owner] Micky Arison have created as a culture. This is the type of place that Shaquille would love to finish his career.''

Miami is one of five cities that O'Neal had told the Lakers would be acceptable to him.

Despite O'Neal's smiling denial to AP on Saturday afternoon that he had met with Heat president Pat Riley, sources told Aldridge that O'Neal apparently agreed to accept the trade after spending part of Saturday morning in Orlando meeting with Riley and Miami general manager Randy Pfund.

Apparently, Riley, Pfund and O'Neal's representatives met for three hours. O'Neal was not present for the entire meeting, but hit it off immediately with Riley.

"He feels this is the environment he wants," a source who was at the meeting said of O'Neal. Riley "was really good about understanding what Shaquille wanted to accomplish," the source said. "He was a great listener."

"That was critical for us," Rogers told the Miami Herald about discussions with Heat management about the team's culture. "This was always about Shaquille getting to a city that had a team-based culture and not of a specific player. And, two, was determined to win -- and, three, was a city that he loved. That leaves a short list [of teams], so we're ecstatic."

According to Aldridge's source, O'Neal likes how Riley used Kareem Abdul-Jabbar later in Abdul-Jabbar's career and believes a return to the Eastern Conference, with its relative lack of big men, will help extend his career. O'Neal also was excited about the prospect of playing with second-year guard Dwyane Wade, who he feels is a special player.

"You don't have to go back too far to see a guard and Shaquille being able to do some damage, even with role players surrounding them," the source said, referring to O'Neal's early years in the league with Orlando, when he and Penny Hardaway helped lead the Magic to the Finals in 1995.

Rogers insisted that the 11-time All-Star is not demanding that Riley -- who resigned as Miami's coach days before last season began and promoted his longtime assistant, Stan Van Gundy -- return to the
sidelines as part of the deal.

"Stan is a great coach," Rogers told the AP on Sunday. "He had a great year. It's not even a consideration that Stan wouldn't be the coach."

Last season, O'Neal averaged a career-low 21.5 points with 11.5 rebounds and 2.48 blocks. Over 12 seasons, he has averaged 27.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.

O'Neal will remain in Orlando until the deal is finalized.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.