Heat, Raptors swap All-Star forwards O'Neal and Marion

With the NBA trade deadline approaching next Thursday, the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors tipped off what expects to be a busy week for players finding new homes, dpa reported.

The Heat acquired forwards Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon on Friday in exchange for forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks.

"You're sad to lose a friend on and off the court," said Miami's Dwyane Wade, who will take part in NBA All-Star Weekend in Phoenix, Arizona this weekend. "At the same time, Shawn and I just had this conversation that it's part of the business and we knew it was a possibility."

The Heat has lacked a big man since trading Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns a year ago. However, it may have solved the problem with the league's "other" O'Neal - a versatile 6-foot-11-inch (211- centimetre) six-time All-Star - who owns career averages of 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in his 13-year career.

The Raptors acquired O'Neal from Indiana before the start of this season. However, slowed by recurring knee problems, the 30-year-old O'Neal is averaging 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.

"It gives us some power down low, which since, Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) left, we've been missing," Wade added. "We really need that to compete in the Eastern Conference. Our main thing is we need to get it together fast."

Moon has bounced around with several different teams during his career before finding a home in Toronto. He is averaging 7.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in his second season with the Raptors.

The Heat is likely to start O'Neal at centre, Udonis Haslem at power forward, Moon at small forward, Wade at shooting guard and Mario Chalmers at point guard.

But first year coach Erik Spoelstra said it all depends on how quickly his two new players adapt to the system.

"It's not the easiest system," he said. "It takes several months usually for somebody to grasp it."

The high-flying Marion is averaging 12.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in his first full season with the Heat, after nine stellar campaigns with the Suns.

Though Marion will become a free agent after this season, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo, is confident the power forward will fit in well with his struggling club.

"I feel Shawn will ideally complement our roster and benefit our team in a significant way," he said. "As far as his pending free- agent status, this is not a move intended to clear space or predetermine a next move. It will however provide flexibility to both Shawn and the Raptors."

Banks will be taking career averages of 6.1 points and 2.2 assists to his fifth team in six NBA seasons. He is expected to back up Spanish-native Jose Calderon at the point guard spot.

"This is a win-win for both Toronto and Miami," Colangelo added. "We wish JO and Jamario the best."

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