Uncertain of how long he'll be able to play after having a kidney transplant, Alonzo Mourning has asked the New Jersey Nets about a contract buyout so he could go to a team with a better chance of winning.
But Nets President Rod Thorn said Friday night the sides are so far apart "it's a dead issue."
"All I can do is continue to try and do what I do best, that's play the game of basketball," Mourning said before the Nets' game against the Chicago Bulls. "I'm willing to sacrifice a ton of money in order to continue to do this somewhere else. Evidently they don't see it as an appropriate number for them. They want more."
The Nets signed Mourning to a four-year, $22.6 million guaranteed contract in July 2003. But he played only 12 games before retiring Nov. 24 because of complications from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease that was first diagnosed in 2000.
Mourning had a kidney transplant Dec. 19, and then announced he was going to play this season.
"There are a lot of people out there who are a whole lot less fortunate than I am, who had to go through the same situation and weren't as successful. They're on dialysis, waiting for a transplant," Mourning said. "This season is for them. I dedicate this season to them."
But the 34-year-old Mourning doesn't know how much playing time he has left. Though he said the only pain he feels is "typical game soreness," the star center knows any game could be his last and he wants to win a championship. That's unlikely to happen with the Nets, who overhauled the team that lost to Detroit in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles were traded for draft picks, and Jason Kidd is starting the season on the disabled list.
So Mourning approached Thorn a few weeks ago about a buyout. There's been speculation he could sign with the Miami Heat, his old team, if a deal can be reached.
"Right now, the best situation because of the unpredictable possible future of this particular disorder is me being in a situation where I can win," Mourning said. "I want a situation where the odds are greater for me to win. I didn't want to be a part of any rebuilding. I wasn't expecting to come back to this."
Neither Mourning nor Thorn would get into specifics, but the New York Daily News reported that Mourning has more than $17 million left on his contract and the sides are millions apart.
"From my understanding, one of reasons they didn't want me to come back was to eliminate my salary off the cap," Mourning said. "Knowing that I'm coming back and knowing that I'm adamant about playing and that's not going to work in their favor . . . why don't we come to an agreement that, 'Yeah you're not going to save all of that money, but you're going to save some of it.' Why don't we come to an agreement where both sides are happy?
"Yeah, I'm going to take a loss," Mourning added. "But my chances of winning will be better somewhere else. At the same time, you won't have to pay 'X' amount of dollars over the three years. You'll play less than 'X' amount of dollars over three years."
But Thorn said he won't do anything if it's not in the Nets' best interests.
"We had conversations, there was a big difference of opinion and that has not been bridged whatsoever, so it's a dead issue as far as I'm concerned," Thorn said. "It appears to me he has a chance to be a productive player. For us just to pay a premium for a buyout for a player that can help us . . . it's not going to happen."
While Mourning said he is still hopeful a deal can be reached, he won't allow it to become a distraction.
"I do know that I have a contractual obligation to adhere to," he said. "With that said, every time I step out on the court, I'm going to play to win and play up to those standards."