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Mourning Is Sitting Pretty

Mourning's triumphant return provided at least a brief highlight after a dark few years. After having focal segmental glomerulosclerosis diagnosed in 2000, Mourning missed much of that season and the next before sitting out the entire 2002-2003 season. The Heat foundered without him.

That offseason, he left Miami in search of his first title, signing a free agent contract with the then-powerhouse New Jersey Nets. But Mourning's health declined. He played in just 12 games. He retired in preparation for the transplant.


Heat center Alonzo Mourning, the team's mainstay before his kidney transplant, is searching for his first NBA title. (Luis Alvarez -- AP)

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Like former San Antonio Spurs guard Sean Elliott, who received a transplant years earlier, Mourning returned to the court, playing in eight games just months after the operation. He didn't, however, care to "waste my time" playing for a bottom-rung team. New Jersey dealt him to the Toronto Raptors earlier this season, but he refused to report, traveling instead to his home on the bay in Miami's Coconut Grove.

After his agent negotiated a buyout of his contract -- and Mourning negotiated a demanding, two-day physical -- he signed with the Heat.

At the time, there was as much concern about Mourning's attitude as his health: Would the notoriously intense big man be a disruptive presence in the locker room? Would he adjust to a reduced role?

"He's fitting in perfectly," forward Udonis Haslem said.

Said guard Damon Jones: "He understood before he got here that we were on a nice roll. He understood coming in and trying to fit in would be the best thing."

Mourning said he hopes to work his way to about 24 minutes a night.

But fewer, he said, would be all right, too.

"I got pride," he said. "I want to play the game, but I understand the bigger picture. . . . It's about accomplishing something I want to accomplish: winning a championship.

"Any minutes Stan decides to play me, if he plays me two, or 22, it doesn't matter."


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