The Heat has told center Shaquille O'Neal's representation that it is talking about trading him and he should be prepared for the possibility of a deal, according to two officials close to the situation. Phoenix has discussed sending forward Shawn Marion and point guard Marcus Banks to the Heat in return for O'Neal.
Asked for confirmation, one of O'Neal's representatives said O'Neal has been made aware that discussions with Phoenix are serious and ongoing, but that a deal was not definite.
Dallas also has been mentioned as a potential destination, though the Heat had not immediately informed O'Neal of that possibility.
O'Neal, 35, was shocked by the turn of events, an associate said. O'Neal helped lead the Heat to the 2005-06 championship, but Miami has struggled since, losing in the first round of the playoffs last season and opening this season with a league-worst 9-37 record.
After this season, Marion can opt out of the last year of his contract worth $17.1 million. If Marion opts out, trading O'Neal would give the Heat substantial salary cap space this offseason, when potential free agents include Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis, Elton Brand, Antawn Jamison, Ron Artest and Corey Maggette.
Marion, 29, is a four-time All-Star and considered one of the NBA's most athletic small forwards. Marion, 6-7, is averaging 15.8 points and 9.9 rebounds.
Banks, 26, is averaging 5.2 points and 1.0 assists. After this season, he has three years left on his contract worth a total of $13.4 million.
O'Neal, who has been out with a hip injury, has two years left on his contract after this season. He will be paid $20 million each of the next two seasons.
On Tuesday, coach Pat Riley said O'Neal was scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his ailing left hip, which has kept him out the past six games.
''We just want to back it up and see, after two weeks, what it shows,'' Riley said.
Riley gave no indication as to when O'Neal would return to the lineup. Riley said O'Neal must strengthen his legs before returning to action, and that the center will be one of six players to miss Wednesday's game at Detroit.
Heat officials were on their way to Detroit and could not be reached for comment.