The Jermaine O'Neal experiment is officially over as the Toronto Raptors have traded the big man along with forward Jamario Moon to the Miami Heat in exchange for four-time NBA All-Star Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks.
"This is a win-win for both Toronto and Miami and we wish JO and Jamario the best," Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo said.
O'Neal arrived in Toronto with much fanfare this off-season following a blockbuster deal with the Indiana Pacers. The trade saw the Raptors send point guard T.J. Ford, centre Rasho Nesterovic, forward Maceo Baston and a draft pick to Indiana in exchange for the 2001-02 NBA Most Improved player and the rights to injured forward Nathan Jawai.
Marion meanwhile was also part of a high profile trade as he arrived from the Phoenix Suns along with Banks for future Hall of Fame centre Shaquille O'Neal.
Neither player has fit in with their new teams as well as they had hoped. Marion has dealt with back issues while posting the lowest scoring totals since his rookie season. In 42 games this season with the Heat, the 30-year old is averaging 12 points, 1.8 assists and 8.7 rebounds per game.
''I am obviously very familiar with Shawn on both a personal and professional level and feel he will ideally complement our roster and benefit our team in a significant way,'' Colangelo said.
O'Neal has had injury issues of his own, but he has also been pushed to the bench thanks to the emergence of Andrea Bargnani as the Raptors starting centre. In 41 games with the Raptors, the 30-year old O'Neal is averaging 13.5 points per game to go along with 7 rebounds a game.
"It's sad to see a guy like Jamario - who I've worked with for the last couple of years - leave," said head coach Jay Triano. "And Jermaine, who has been here this year - I thank them for what they've done for the organization. For me, they're both a pleasure to coach."
"I hope this will create a better environment for us, as far as being better defensively. I think we'll be able to (better) guard perimeter players, which has been our weakness so far to this point." said Triano.
Marion is in the final year of a contract that sees him bring home just over $17 million this season.
''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,'' said Colangelo.
Banks has two years remaining on his deal worth approximately $4.75 million per season.
O'Neal meanwhile, has one more season remaining on his contract worth a whopping $22.995 million.
In Marion, the Raptors would receive one of the toughest on the ball defenders in the NBA and a secondary scoring option for Toronto that will take some pressure off of Chris Bosh. He is also familiar to Raptors' general manager Bryan Colangelo for whom he played for with the Phoenix Suns.
"It allows our players to play their proper positions," said Triano. "We can move Bargnani to the five, Bosh can play the four, and in Shawn Marion we have a true three now, and it will create more comfort for the guys on the floor and a little more space," said Triano.
Moon, who the Raptors signed last season from the NBA developmental league has been inconsistent for the Raptors this season, and has recently seen Joey Graham take more time on the court.
Banks would likely battle for the backup point guard position with rookie Roko Ukic, likely making Will Solomon expendable.
"Marcus will add scoring and defensive punch to our lineup and should benefit from the change of address,'' Colangelo said.