- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

Shaquille O’Neal is a big man with a big contract. And so the Miami Heat made a deal that sent the 2000 NBA MVP to the Phoenix Suns for forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks.

  • Outlet:Wizards give thumbs up to Shaq trade

  • While analysts are at a loss to know why the fast-paced Suns would acquire the plodding O’Neal, it’s clear the struggling Heat are looking for one thing that teams perpetually seek: financial breathing room.

    After this season, O’Neal is due $40 million over the next two years, a daunting number for the Heat, who have more than $60 million committed to star guard Dwyane Wade.

    “You can understand Miami’s perspective,” said Maury Brown, founder of the online Business of Sports Network and operator of bizofbasketball.com. “He’s aging, he’s not getting any better and he’s got $40 million left on his contract. It’s unloading dollars and adding payroll flexibility, which is what it’s about in the NBA.”

    The O’Neal-to-Phoenix deal is not unique. Here’s a look at a few of the most notable salary dump trades in recent sports history.

    Alex Rodriguez, Rangers to Yankees

    Before the 2001 season, Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks blew away the baseball establishment by signing free-agent shortstop Alex Rodriguez to a record 10-year, $252 million contract. By 2004, Hicks regretted the deal.

    Rodriguez did his part, winning the 2003 American League MVP. But the team wasn’t winning. So the Rangers unloaded A-Rod and about $100 million of his salary to the New York Yankees for second baseman Alfonso Soriano. The deal involved so much cash that commissioner Bud Selig nearly rejected it.

    “This trade is about flexibility,” Rangers general manager John Hart said at the time. “We’ve traded the best player in the game, and we’re getting tremendous financial flexibility.”

    Soriano put up good numbers in two seasons with Texas before also being traded. Rodriguez has won two more MVP awards and this offseason signed a new contract with the Yankees. The Rangers haven’t made the playoffs since the A-Rod deal, but the responsibility of paying Rodriguez now lies in the Bronx.

    Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves to Celtics

    Not long after the Minnesota Timberwolves signed the versatile Garnett to a record six-year, $126 million contract extension, the NBA and players union changed the collective bargaining agreement to restrict salaries of that size.

    Garnett’s stay in Minnesota was originally a positive one as he led the Timberwolves to eight straight playoff appearances after several years of futility. And he signed a five-year contract extension worth more than $20 million a year in 2003. But the team failed to make the playoffs between 2004 and 2006, and the lack of salary cap flexibility due to Garnett’s contract was blamed.

    Minnesota sent Garnett to the Celtics for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff and two first-round draft picks. Garnett earlier this year signed a three-year, $60 million extension to stay in Boston through the 2012 season.

    The Celtics now have the best record in the NBA and Minnesota the second-worst.

    Bobby Abreu, Phillies to Yankees

    The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2006 season owing about $30 million to Abreu, an outfielder well-known for his patience at the plate. General manager Pat Gillick already had committed big funds to shortstop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley and considered the laid-back, unpopular Abreu expendable.

    The Phillies sent Abreu to the Yankees in a deadline deal along with pitcher Cory Lidle and received four prospects, none of whom have panned out.

    The Yankees benefited from Abreu’s .369 on-base percentage, 101 RBI and 25 steals last season.

    But the Phillies did have an improved record after his departure and won the National League East last year, freeing up money to afford Utley, Rollins and a possible big contract for first baseman Ryan Howard.

    Jaromir Jagr, Capitals to Rangers

    Capitals owner Ted Leonsis still gets grief about it. The team signed Jagr, one of the NHL’s leading scorers, to a record seven-year, $77 million contract but never got the results it hoped for. Furthermore, the team was losing money at an alarming rate.

    The Caps traded Jagr to the Rangers for forward Anson Carter, unloading $24 million from their payroll in the process.

    “This was a contract that we had to move,” Capitals general manager George McPhee told reporters after announcing the trade. “Nobody wants to trade good players, but if you can’t afford it, you have to do so.”

    Jagr has gone on to resurrect his career in New York, while Carter’s stint in Washington lasted just two months. But the Jagr deal led the Capitals to take on a rebuilding process focused on homegrown talent that is starting to show dividends this year.

    “With these types of deals, it’s about payroll flexibility and getting bad contracts off the books as much as positioning yourself for the future,” Brown said.

    DUMPING OFF

    A look at the details of a few other big salary dumps:

    ” Alex Rodriguez

    Original deal: 10-year $252 million with Rangers

    How much left when traded: $179 million

    How much picked up: $112 million* by Yankees

    Bobby Abreu

    Original deal: 5-year, $64 million with Phillies

    How much left when traded: $22 million

    How much picked up: All by Yankees

    Kevin Garnett

    Original deal: 5-year, $100 million extension with Timberwolves

    How much left when traded: $22 million in salary, plus $6 million trade kicker

    How much picked up: All by Celtics

    Jaromir Jagr

    Original deal: 7-year, $77 million with Capitals

    How much left when traded: $44 million

    How much picked up: $24 million by Rangers

    * last three years voided after Rodriguez signed a new deal with New York

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