MIAMI (AP) – Saying goodbye to longtime starter Eddie Jones was difficult for the Miami Heat. Acquiring a slew of new players, most of whom should make immediate impacts, cushioned the blow.

One day after helping pull off the largest trade in NBA history, Heat president Pat Riley insisted the move – along with the signing Shaquille O’Neal to a new deal – will pay quick dividends and set Miami up for a multiyear run at championships.

The new faces from the 13-player, five-team deal that also included draft picks and cash: Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, James Posey and Andre Emmett. Gone are Jones, Rasual Butler and Qyntel Woods.

The Heat believe they made a steal of a deal, and they may be right.

“I thought it was a day that we moved toward that goal of achieving what it is we want, ” Riley said Wednesday.

“It’s a day that we moved toward putting together a core that’s going to be together for a while.”

Williams and Posey arrived from Memphis, and were in South Florida on Wednesday to become acquainted with their new club. Emmett also comes from the Grizzlies, who received Jones in the deal that also included the Boston Celtics, New Orleans Hornets and Utah Jazz.

The deal means Williams gets to play with O’Neal, a longtime friend who was excited about the move.

“Any player would want to play with a center of his caliber,” said Williams, a true point guard. “Until you really play with one, I don’t know what it’s like. I can only imagine – and my imagination is amazing.”

Walker got a $53 million, six-year deal from the Celtics in a sign-and-trade maneuver; the three-time All-Star forward is scheduled to be introduced by the Heat on Thursday. Hours before the trade, the Heat signed O’Neal for $100 million over five years, plus inked Udonis Haslem to a $30.7 million, five-year deal.

“In our continuing, and seems like never-ending, effort to win a championship, I thought yesterday was about as good a day as I’ve ever had in basketball,” Riley said.

In his first seven NBA seasons, Williams averaged 11.7 points and 6.8 assists per game, albeit on just 39 percent shooting from the field, 31.5 percent from 3-point range.

Those numbers could easily rise. With O’Neal and Dwyane Wade as teammates, Williams should find himself open more than ever.

“It just made me feel so good, knowing that these guys down here wanted me to come here and Shaq wanted me to play with him,” Williams said.

Posey, a small forward, averaged 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds while starting all 82 games in 2003-04; injuries held him to 50 games – 18 starts – last season, and he averaged 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds.

He said the trade stunned him.

“Wow,” Posey said. “Shaquille O’Neal. Dwyane Wade. They have a great cast here. They did big things last year, so I’ll just try to come in, see how I fit in and do my part.”

When the dust settled Tuesday, the Heat had an unbelievably different look.

Young stars Wade and Haslem have the longest current tenure in the Heat locker room – each have been there two full seasons.

Only one player, Alonzo Mourning, isn’t under contract after next year. And the biggest news, naturally, was O’Neal agreeing to play five more years in Miami.

“Now we’re finally in a position to build a core,” coach Stan Van Gundy said.

“And now our job as both coaches and players is to fit the pieces together and figure out how we’re going to make it work.”

What Miami had last season worked – to an extent. The Heat won 59 games and took Detroit to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, with O’Neal slowed by a bruised thigh and Wade hurting because of a pulled rib muscle.

But Riley said he never thought of the Heat as a team that was just a rib and thigh away from a title, and was determined to do something to improve the roster.

“Standing pat was not the best thing to do,” Van Gundy said. “It doesn’t mean that you’re saying last year’s team couldn’t win it. What it means is, you think there might be a better way to go.”

AP-ES-08-03-05 1950EDT


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