O'Neal joins James in Cleveland


CLEVELAND, June 26 – The Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired 15-time all-star Shaquille O'Neal in a blockbuster trade with the Phoenix Suns that brings two of the NBA's biggest stars together for the first time.
The trade pairs O’Neal with LeBron James, who was voted the league’s most valuable player last year.

In exchange for O’Neal, Phoenix gets centre Ben Wallace and guard Sasha Pavlovic, Cleveland’s second-round pick in the 2010 entry draft and cash.

"It is a really unique and rare opportunity to bring in a player of Shaq’s calibre," Danny Ferry, Cleveland’s general manager said Thursday. "We are excited to see how his presence, experience and play positively impacts our team.

"We truly appreciate all that Ben and Sasha gave to this team and community in their time here. They were good teammates, and we wish them nothing but success."

O’Neal, a four-time NBA championship winner and former first overall pick of the Orlando Magic (1992), is expected to become a dominant force for the Cavaliers.

"My numbers are not good enough to retire. Three more years left," O’Neal wrote on his social web page Twitter.

O’Neal is set to make 20 million dollars in 2009-10. Cleveland unloads Wallace’s 14 million dollar contract and Pavlovic’s five million dollar deal.

O’Neal led the Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002. The Lakers traded O’Neal to Miami and he took the Heat to another title three years ago.

The 37-year-old giant centre won the most valuable player award in 2000.

He averaged 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds in 75 games last season as Phoenix missed the playoffs.

Cleveland hopes O’Neal can help the city break its championship drought. The Ohio city hasn’t won an American sports championship since 1964, the year the gridiron Browns won the National Football League title.

O’Neal has career averages of 24.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots per game. He has played 17 seasons with Orlando, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Besides his league MVP award he has three finals MVP trophies, two scoring titles and a 1993 rookie of the year award.

Cleveland is hoping O’Neal can help them get the playoff hunt and provide an answer for players like Orlando centre Dwight Howard. The Cavs were eliminated from this year’s playoffs by Howard’s Magic in six games.

Former Detroit Piston Wallace, 34, averaged just 3.0 points and 6.5 rebounds last season.

Serbia’s Pavlovic also struggled last season averaging 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 66 games.