Magical? 'Zo could play against Orlando

Updated: February 22, 2005, 11:43 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MIAMI -- Alonzo Mourning won't play Tuesday against the Bulls or Wednesday at Indiana but should be on the Miami Heat roster by the end of the week, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Monday.

The paper reported Tuesday that Mourning did pass his physical and the team is working with him.

"His physical was good," Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He's working out and working on his conditioning and really trying to push that up."

Mourning was expected to be at practice Monday but concerns of conditioning have delayed the return of the seven-time All-Star. Not adding the former team captain back to the roster also gives the Heat more flexibility as Thursday's 3 p.m. trading deadline approaches.

"My main concern right now is to go and get myself in great condition," Mourning told the newspaper during an All-Star Weekend charity event in Denver.

Mourning could be available to play for the Heat in Saturday's game against the Orlando Magic.

Alonzo Mourning
Alonzo Mourning averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds in eight seasons with the Heat.
The 35-year-old shot-blocker underwent a kidney transplant 14 months ago. He played just 30 games in parts of two seasons with the Nets, who traded him to Toronto on Dec. 17. Mourning spent eight years in Miami, a stay interrupted twice by his fight with kidney disease. He cleared waivers Feb. 15 and became a free agent.

The Heat (40-14) have won seven straight and lead the Eastern Conference. Mourning will accept whatever role is given to him.

"They're playing extremely well right now," Mourning told the Sun-Sentinel. "I've already had a conversation with Stan [Van Gundy], and I said, 'Utilize me in the way you need to help the team win.'"

Mourning's contract with Miami most likely will be for a prorated share of the $1.1 million veteran minimum salary, meaning the Heat will pay him only about $375,000 for the rest of the season.

Mourning averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds with the Heat, yet made only one trip to the Eastern Conference finals.

He left Miami after the 2002-03 season -- which he missed with the kidney problems -- and signed a $22.6 million, four-year deal with New Jersey, saying that was his best shot at a title. But the Nets dropped out of the league's elite ranks, and Mourning wanted out to play for another contender.

Mourning made his desire clear: to play in his home city, where his charity is based and where he could contend for a title.

"He was the face of this franchise," Heat guard Eddie Jones said. "I'm sure the fans still have a lot of respect and love for him."

Once Mourning is added, the Heat will have to trim a player from its NBA maximum 15-man roster. Seldom-used center Wang Zhi-Zhi could be released or disgruntled forward Wesley Person may be bought out. Waiting until the trade deadline to add Mourning maximizes Miami's options.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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