Shaq makes long-term plans in Miami

MIAMI -- Shaquille O'Neal likely left millions on the
bargaining table. What he wants more than money is another

O'Neal signed a $100 million, 5-year contract with the Miami
Heat on Tuesday, a deal that gives the 12-time All-Star center
added financial security while allowing his team salary flexibility
to pursue other players.
He'll make $20 million in each of the next five seasons in an
agreement believed to include incentives. He was to have earned
$30.6 million this coming season, but opted out of that deal for a
longer-term pact with less money annually.
"Shaquille can name his price," said his agent, Perry Rogers.
"And the price he named was winning."
Rogers said O'Neal remains the player with the highest average
annual salary in the league.
The deal was signed shortly after the league's moratorium on
player signings expired Tuesday. Signings were supposed to begin
nearly two weeks ago, but minor complications in putting the new
six-year collective bargaining agreement into writing forced two
O'Neal never looked to go elsewhere. He didn't even speak with
other clubs.
"I'm very excited about my new agreement with the Heat,"
O'Neal said in a statement released by the team. "This contract
allows me to address all of my family's long-term financial goals
while allowing the Heat the ability to acquire those players that
we need to win a championship."
O'Neal was vacationing Tuesday in Rome. Team doctors will fly
there and administer a physical Wednesday. Heat president Pat Riley
said signing O'Neal was the team's top offseason priority.
"For over a year, the Heat's relationship with Shaquille has
been a win-win situation on and off the court," Riley said. "We
have been able to secure one of the most dominant men to ever play
the game of basketball. ... At the same time, we have gained
flexibility to achieve our ultimate goal of winning an NBA
The Heat do not want to be a luxury-tax team, and paying O'Neal
$20 million annually -- a figure some could consider a bargain --
should not put Miami over the tax threshold. It also seems to
ensure that Miami could use its midlevel exception annually to sign
players; this year's midlevel is $5 million.
"You get paid the most, but you do it in a way that's not
detrimental to what the team wants to accomplish," Rogers said.
The 7-foot-1, 327-pound O'Neal made an immediate impact during
his first season with Miami, which acquired him in July 2004 from
the Los Angeles Lakers for three players and a draft choice.
He averaged 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds in the regular season,
leading the league with a 60.1 field goal percentage. O'Neal ranked
sixth in the league in blocks (2.34 a game), double-doubles (43)
and rebounds.
"I guess that's five more years of wide-open shots for me,"
said forward Udonis Haslem, who signed his five-year, $30.7 million
deal to stay in Miami on Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to that,
definitely. Obviously Shaq has been a tremendous benefit to the
whole team. ... I'm going to ride him until his wheels fall off."
O'Neal had previously led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA
titles from 2000-2002. Even while hampered by a bruised thigh
throughout the playoffs, he helped the Heat reach the Eastern
Conference finals.
"This is one of those deals where everybody can be really
proud," Rogers said. "In a day and age when it's only about the
team using a player for the amount of time they'll think he'll be
totally at his best, or a day in age when players want to get paid
all they can right now, this was every party understanding the
other's needs."
Agreeing to terms with O'Neal could be the first in a flurry of
moves by the Heat.
Miami is considering a trade that would send swingman Eddie
Jones to the Memphis Grizzlies for point guard Jason Williams and
small forward James Posey and forward Andre Emmett. Part of that
deal -- a five-team megatrade -- also would bring forward Antoine
Walker, a three-time All-Star who averaged 19.1 points and nine
rebounds last season for the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, to
The deal involving Jones and Walker was pending league approval
Tuesday night.
The Heat are also awaiting decisions from backup center Alonzo
Mourning, who's considering retirement, and free agent point guard
Damon Jones -- whom Miami wants back.
But the O'Neal deal was the biggest part of Miami's offseason
"It's an obscene amount of money, but he's worth it," Rogers
said. "This team is going to do some exciting things. And there's
no sense in going out and making $25 million if you're not winning