Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O'Neal is starting to drop thinly veiled hints about pushing for a trade to the Dallas Mavericks this offseason. After responding to several recent questions about his future with a mock growl, O'Neal told ESPN.com: "You know who needs me, right?" Asked if he was referring to the Mavericks, O'Neal added: "You write it." But Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, in response, made it sound Wednesday as though he would prefer to keep his longtime friendship with O'Neal on a mostly Twitter level.
Sources with knowledge of the Mavericks' summer plans on Wednesday reiterated recent proclamations by Cuban that they plan to be aggressive on the trade front. They believe that several yet-to-be-identified established players will be shopped by financially strapped teams, as seen before the Feb. 19 trading deadline, when the likes of New Jersey's Vince Carter, Milwaukee's Richard Jefferson, New Orleans' Tyson Chandler and, of course, O'Neal were made available.
Yet sources indicate that O'Neal, due to make $21 million in 2009-10 in the final year of his contract, would be a second-tier choice for the Mavs. Although he could address some longstanding shortcomings for the Mavs -- with his low-post scoring and physical presence as well as an ongoing ability to sell tickets -- they are believed to be looking to inject their Dirk Nowitzki-Jason Kidd-Jason Terry-Josh Howard core with younger legs if possible.