Things were looking bleak for the Miami Heat on February 5. Dwyane Wade was playing through injuries, Shaq wasn't playing at all, and when he did, the Diesel looked more like a jalopy. The Heat had the NBA's worst record, 9-37, and a roster full of guys who were either past their prime (Jason Williams), crazy (Ricky Davis), or just too inexperienced (Dorell Wright). Shaq's contract called for $40 million over the next two years, making it seemingly impossible to move him and limiting the Heat's ability to work around the salary cap. Then, on February 6, came a ray of hope called the Phoenix Suns, who were scrambling to keep pace and make a championship run out of the tough Western Conference.
Trading the disgruntled and unmotivated Shaq for the versatile Shawn Marion and forward Marcus Banks was a big victory for the Heat. Marion can defend all five positions, fills the stat sheet, and could be a great athletic counterpart to Wade. Marion can opt out of his contract at season's end if he decides to forfeit next year's $17.2-million salary, potentially giving the Heat substantial salary-cap space this summer. Shaq's colorful personality will be missed in the Magic City, but getting rid of the behemoth and his equally huge contract will allow the Heat to build for the future around Wade.