Alonzo Mourning Press Conference

MIAMI, August 18 -

Alonzo Mourning: “Last year was a very disappointing year considering the expectations of the team. I understand that winning a championship, getting to that championship level, is a process that you go through. Unfortunately, you have to go through some pain before you win it all, traditionally speaking. Not saying this is the reason why we lose. When you get into the Finals, anything can happen. All in all, there’s a process that you go through, and traditionally speaking, teams that have won it in the past, they had to go through some things in order to get to that championship level. This is the process that I feel this team is moving towards. I feel that the organization only has raised the ante. They really have. I think that Pat Riley has been the orchestrator since day one, ever since I got here. This team has just moved one step closer to improving and has put themselves in position to win a championship. That’s what it’s all about. That has been the mentality of this organization since Pat Riley stepped foot in the city of Miami – winning a championship. I think that this year we as an organization have stepped closer to accomplishing that, and I’m happy to be back as part of the team and the process in doing that.”

Question: What was your thought process in deciding to return?

AM: “First and foremost, it pretty much came down to what my family wanted me to do. That was the most important thing. My wife and I were on vacation with the kids and right before we went to bed that night she said ‘You’ve come a long way. I would hate to see you not play this season and this team gets to the Finals – something you’ve been working your entire career to get to. I would hate to see you not play this season and miss that opportunity to play on that stage.’ She said, ‘You’ve come a long way, you’ve endured a lot and you have made a lot of sacrifices to put yourself in this position.’ She said, ‘What is one more year going to hurt? You’d probably be miserable at home anyways – driving me crazy. If you feel up to it, you should probably play again.’ My son told me a couple of days after the season was over that he wanted me to play. Also Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) coming back was a huge factor in all this. When I heard that he signed, it made the decision that much easier.”

Question: At the end of the playoffs you had said the window of opportunity was closing for you. With the addition of the new players to the roster, has it reopened for you?

AM: “My doctors have continued to tell me that there’s always a 30 percent chance of possible (kidney) rejection. God forbid that from happening. I know that the window of opportunity can always close on me just from that statistic alone. I just have to continue to take care of my body and keep it in the best possible shape that I can so that that statistic does not become a major factor. I have continued to consult my physician on a very regular basis. I just left New York on an extensive physical that I had to go through to where they did everything from a MRI to check on how everything was going. I walked out of the hospital, after being there for about seven hours, with a clean bill of health. Having to do that consistently every year, it’s a burden. But it beats being hooked up to a dialysis machine every week. That’s a small price to pay. I know that there’s always that window of opportunity closing on me, but at the same time the most important thing to me is living another forty.

“I’m just 35-years old. If I can make it to 75 or eighty, then I’ve lived a good life. That’s extremely important to me. I would hate to look back five or ten years from now, and if I didn’t commit to play, and say to myself, ‘Man, I wished I would have played this year. The team was successful and I wished I was a part of it.’ If the team would come up short - ‘I wish I was there to help.’ I don’t want to be in that mental situation saying if or should have. I think yesterday I made the right decision.

“I’m pleased with the acquisition of the new players. It’s kind of unfortunate that when you do have to make decisions like that that other players who have sacrificed their time and effort to improve the organization over the years, guys like Eddie (Jones) and Rasual (Butler), have to be sacrificed in that type of scenario. But it’s business. It’s a cold, cold business. I see it every year – with coaches and players being moved. It’s just a part of the business. You just got to live with it and move on. It’s a very competitive business, and people with front office positions have to continue to make changes and continue to work toward improving. Unfortunately, guys like Eddie and Rasual had to be a part of that equation. Those guys were like brothers to me. We’d developed a great relationship over the years. I’m going to miss them. I’m definitely going to miss them, but at the same time I do understand that this is a business. I know that this is going to be a great opportunity for us to do some special things because of the depth that we have now. We have even more depth than we had last year. I thought last year we had depth. This year is incredible. Just imagine if we get Number Four (Michael Finley) in here. That would raise the ante even more.”

Question: When you spoke to Pat Riley, did he have to convince you much to come back?

AM: “I pretty much had my mind made up going into the meeting, but I had to hear some things from him before I made the final decision. He solidified my decision with the conversation that we had, and I was happy with that. At the same time, Pat and I have a rapport, an incredible rapport. We can talk about anything. As long as we had an understanding, it was easy for me to make the decision to come back. I know he’s going to make a concerted effort this year, more than he has in the past, to try to be more involved. I know by bringing in these players, you have all these different type of personalities to coexist and develop a certain level of chemistry. That’s a work in progress, and it’s not going to be easy. I trust that Pat and Stan (Van Gundy) will do that. It’s going to take some veteran leadership also to help in that process. We just can’t leave all of the responsibility to Pat and Stan to do it. It’s going to take some veteran leadership as well, guys who’ve been there and understand what the organization is going though to help the new guys understand that it’s not about anything but winning a championship this year, nothing else – nothing more or nothing less. It’s about that this organization is successful and that we come out on top at the end of the year. That’s going to be a work in progress. With the talent that we have, I feel that we are really able to do that.”

Question: What are you able to contribute to this year’s team?

AM: “I don’t see myself doing anything less than what I gave last year. I see myself bringing even more to the table because I’m starting the season off with the team – going through training camp. You could imagine if I would have started off with the team last year what I would have been able to do. I see myself bringing more to the table because I am coming into training camp. I’m not having to play catch up and learning the system and having to learn the players. I see myself bringing even more. In last year’s playoffs, (a member of the media) approached me and asked if I was surprised at what I had done in the game. I said ‘No. That’s what I’ve been doing for my entire career.’ The scenario presented the opportunity to do those things. I haven’t forgotten how to play this game. I think with my veteran experience, my capabilities and my physical abilities that I bring to the table, the team can benefit from that. We can benefit by being successful by utilizing my talents.”

Question: Is there anything else that you think this team needs to compete for a championship?

AM: “I think we have everything that we need. We just need total cooperation from everybody across the board. That’s all we need. If we have everybody’s dedication and cooperation toward focusing on nothing else but improving their game to help the team win a championship, then we’ll have no problem whatsoever. You have to have that sort of commitment. It’s not about playing time or making the All-Star game. I think all of that will take care of itself. It’s about winning a championship. I think that’s why Pat Riley assembled this group of guys because he felt that we, if orchestrated correctly, can do that. I don’t think this team needs anymore. But with Four here, it will make the process easier. I hope he sees the opportunity here and I hope he makes the commitment.”

Question: Was there a part of you that didn’t want Pat to tinker so much, since you got so close?

AM: “I thought about that, but I don’t see myself as a GM. I’m the type of guy that looks at it from a player’s prospective and I look at the relationship I’ve built. I get more involved in relationships than I do with the personnel. It’s his job to deal with personnel. If I had anything to do with it, I might have brought another piece in, maybe brought a veteran in, but that’s it. But that is just me, because of my relationship with Eddie and Rasual and how close we came last year. But I do understand why he makes decisions like this and I do see the potential if things are able to work the way he sees it evolving, the way he is projecting it to evolve, I do see the possibility of all of it being very successful. I think that when the playoffs come around, obviously health is going to be an issue, but it is going to come down to chemistry and every last individual being on the same page.”

Question: When you started, did you think that you would still be playing at this age?

AM: “I thought I would play until I was 40. But being 22 years old, you are living life in a dream world when you come into this league, as a 22 year old millionaire. There is so much to digest and to learn. You progress and you learn how your body responds year after year and how injuries happen. That was my mentality; that I was invincible and I could play until I was 40. And then, seeing how I could bounce back after injuries, after the knee surgery, after an ankle sprain or a broken bone in the face, I could play through those things and put a mask on it or throw it in a bucket of ice and wrap it up and I’d be back there in a week or so. You get caught up in that invincible mentality until I was humbled in 2000. And, hey, there is a possibility that I won’t play until 40. With the way this league has evolved, I don’t think I would want to play until 40. I would rather come to the games with my son. He is about to turn nine and I had the opportunity to spend some time with him at a basketball camp at the University of North Carolina this summer. I stayed up there all summer, because he is not old enough to stay over night at camps. But just watching his involvement and how excited he was about me being there- I took him and a buddy of his and watched him every day-I really got a kick out of that. So I’m looking forward to his growth and his development and he really truly enjoys the game. Instead of playing until 40, I want to watch him grow and develop and teach him the game as I have been taught.”

Question: Will this year be your last year?

AM: “I haven’t decided yet. I will possibly make that decision during the year or most definitely after the year. I don’t want a huge fair well sendoff type of thing, that’s not me. The only thing I wanted out of this game was financial security and a championship. I have one of those things and I’m working to try to get a championship. That is what I am here for.”