Mourning, Martin almost come to blows

Updated: November 21, 2003, 12:02 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New Jersey Nets teammates Alonzo Mourning and Kenyon Martin nearly came to blows at practice on Thursday.

According to several published reports, Mourning was last in his group to the finish line at the end of grueling conditioning drills and heard laughter from players.

Mourning approached them and shouted as part of a profanity-filled outburst "This ain't funny. This is about winning."

Richard Jefferson, a third-year forward who was laughing, told Mourning that it wasn't funny, it was "hilarious."

Martin also mocked Mourning's recent performance on the court and said Mourning wouldn't have to run if he would improve his rebounding. Mourning responded by questioning the leadership and toughness of Martin.

Mourning signed with the Nets after kidney disease cost him all of last season and nearly the entire 2000-01 season. But he took a shot at Martin, who recently missed five games with an ankle injury.

"At least I'm out there on the court, not in the training room. I'm trying to make the best of my time," Mourning reportedly told Martin. "You can't be a leader in the trainer's room crying, 'My ankle, my ankle.'''

Martin was said to have responded with a similar remark about Mourning's kidney ailment.

Mourning didn't immediately react, but when players separated into groups for the next part of practice, he suddenly charged toward Martin before being restrained by teammates.

The team got between the two players before they could get close enough for contact. Nets coach Byron Scott, who watched from the far side of the court, went to Martin and spoke calmly to him.

Practice then resumed with Mourning and Martin not speaking to each other. When it ended, team spokesman Gary Sussman said neither player would be available for comment.

A few minutes after tempers were calmed, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, Martin looked over at Mourning during a break, tapped his chest, gestured toward Mourning, and said, "It's over," in an apparent apology. Mourning nodded but said nothing.

Scott said he will not discipline either player.

"I'm not upset about it," the he told the New York Daily News. "You're talking about two warriors. When it's all said and done, they both understand they have to go to war together."

"Since the time I've been here there's been 10, 11 situations like that, whether it's in the locker room [or] on the floor," Jefferson told the Star-Ledger. "It's just guys, you know, getting after each other, two competitive intense individuals. If you [media] would have walked in 10 minutes later, you wouldn't be able to tell anything, because that's just the way it is: You fight, you argue, it's like a family. You get in a fistfight with your brother, the next day you're hanging out."

Jefferson said he does not know whether Martin crossed the line by commenting on Mourning's kidney disorder.

"Obviously some subjects are more sensitive than others," Jefferson told the Star-Ledger. "But who am I to judge the rules on talking trash? [Trash-talking] goes back to before I was born."

Team president Rod Thorn said the Nets spent the afternoon serving a holiday dinner at a community center and there was no lingering tension between any of the players.

"I think from time to time you have altercations in practice," Thorn said. "When you're playing hard, these types of things will happen."

"Hopefully, it starts a little bit of a fire in our team," Kerry Kittles told the Star-Ledger. "We need something to try to get us going ... and [there's] nothing wrong with a little competition, nothing wrong with a little spirited challenges. We've had 'em before, where guys get into it, and it's all good. It's a competitive battle between both players, and hopefully it rubs off on the team and we go out and we play with more fire on the court."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.