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Heat swap Marion for O'Neal

SHAWN Marion's most memorable play with the Miami Heat was his last.

Hours after Marion's last-second dunk lifted the Heat past the Chicago Bulls, he was traded on Friday to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Jermaine?O'Neal, ending a weeks-long saga involving the expected deal of former All-Stars.

National Basketball Association officials approved the swap on Friday afternoon by conference call.

"I developed an unbelievable relationship with Shawn," Heat star guard Dwyane Wade said in Phoenix, where he's part of All-Star weekend. "You're sad to lose a friend on and off the court. 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."

Toronto also gets guard Marcus Banks and cash, while Miami will receive forward Jamario Moon and a future first-round draft pick, to come sometime between 2010 and 2015. It's lottery-protected, essentially meaning the first time the Raptors make the playoffs after this season, their first-rounder goes to Miami.

If Miami does not get that first-round pick in 2010, it will get an additional second-round pick that year. The Heat also get a US$4.2 million trade exception, which would allow Miami to make a future trade even if the salaries involved don't match.

"This is a win-win for both Toronto?and?Miami and we wish JO and Jamario the best," said Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo, who is familiar with Marion from his time with the Phoenix Suns.

Miami and Toronto discussed the deal for weeks and, with the trade deadline looming on Thursday, decided to move forward.

Marion - whom Miami acquired just over a year ago from the Phoenix Suns for Shaquille O'Neal - was referred to by both Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and President Pat Riley in recent weeks as the team's "second-best player" behind Wade.

He took a bounce pass from Wade and dunked with 1.1 seconds left on Thursday night, lifting Miami to a 95-93 win. It was his last hurrah, though, with Miami.

Marion was a key part of Miami's 28-24 start to this season, averaging 12 points (third on the team behind Wade and Michael Beasley) and a team-best 8.7 rebounds.

But Marion wanted a long-term contract, something Miami was not willing to provide.

One of Miami's primary areas of concentration, just like every other team in the NBA, is keeping cap space clear for the summer of 2010, when the likes of Wade, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh can become free agents.

And this clears another US$4.8 million in cap room for that summer; that's what Banks, who had fallen out of the rotation in Miami, would have been owed in the 2010-11 season.

Plus, it gets Miami a true center in Jermaine O'Neal. The 30-year-old averaged 13.5 points and seven rebounds for Toronto, but has been slowed by injuries. He's owed nearly US$23 million next season, but that money won't affect Miami's free-agent plans for 2010.


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