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View Full Version : Mourning and Martin Nearly Come to Blows at Practice


dirno2000
11-21-2003, 12:49 AM
AST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Nov. 20 — After a draining practice session, Alonzo Mourning and half of the Nets team, mostly second-unit players, were making their way through the final strides of a set of suicide drills, punishment for losing a contest to the rest of the team Thursday at the Champion Center, the team's practice facility. As Mourning trudged to the finish behind his teammates, already unhappy, he heard laughter from the players who were watching.

Mourning snapped in reaction to the frustration of the drills, the team's troubles on the court and the cavalier attitude he has perceived during the Nets' 5-6 start this season. Mourning stalked over to where the players were laughing and, in a profanity-laden diatribe, shouted in part: "This ain't funny. This is about winning."

Richard Jefferson, a third-year forward who was one of the players who were laughing, told Mourning that indeed it wasn't funny, it was "hilarious."

When Kenyon Martin, a fourth-year forward, jumped in by mocking Mourning's recent performance on the court and commenting that Mourning would not have to run if he would improve his rebounding, Mourning attacked Martin's leadership and toughness.

Mourning, who signed with the Nets this summer after kidney disease cost him all of last season and nearly the entire 2000-1 season, told Martin: "At least I'm out there on the court, not in the training room. I'm trying to make the best of my time."

"You can't be a leader in the trainer's room crying, `My ankle, my ankle,' " Mourning added, referring to the sprained ankle that sidelined Martin for five games. Martin responded by mocking Mourning, muttering, "My kidney, my kidney."

Mourning did not immediately react to that comment. But when the players separated into groups for the next part of practice, he suddenly charged toward Martin before being restrained by teammates as he yelled, using more profanity: "What did you say about my kidney? Don't talk about my kidney. I'll put you on your back."

Teammates halted Mourning and kept him and Martin from getting close enough to come to blows. Meanwhile, Coach Byron Scott, who had watched from the far side of the court as the altercation began, stepped in front of Martin and spoke calmly to him.

The practice then resumed with Mourning and Martin not speaking to each other. The Nets' vice president for public relations, Gary Sussman, said later that neither player would be available to reporters.

Mourning had voiced his displeasure on Wednesday with the team's work ethic and attentiveness, traits ingrained in him when he played for Pat Riley on the Miami Heat.

"I didn't expect it to be like this," Mourning, who has never played in the N.B.A. finals, said on Wednesday in reference to the Nets, the Eastern Conference champions the past two seasons. "I thought we'd come out strong and give more effort. Some guys work their whole careers and never get a chance to go to the finals."

Asked if he would have signed with the Nets if he knew how they would approach the beginning of this season, Mourning said, "Don't know."

The Nets signed Mourning to a four-year, $23 million contract this summer, and he has quickly become a team spokesman. But his lack of production has hurt his ability to wield the clout with the Nets that he did with the Heat. Mourning, a seven-time All-Star, is averaging 7.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 18.1 minutes a game while coming off the bench.

Martin, who will be a restricted free agent after this season and was the subject of summer trade talks, is averaging 17.2 points and 9.7 rebounds, with two straight trips to the finals on his résumé.

Rod Thorn, the Nets' president, said the team spent the afternoon serving a holiday dinner at the Lighthouse Community Center in Newark with no lingering tension between Mourning, Martin or anybody else.

"The guys were getting along great," said Thorn, who indicated that neither player would be punished. "Whatever happened in practice is part of practice. There was obviously no carryover. Everyone was in a festive mood and there were no problems at all."

Scott said that such heated exchanges do not happen often.

"I don't know if it's once a year; it's not once a week," he said. "It's not once a year, either. I'm not upset about it."

He said he went to his assistant coaches, Larry Drew and Don Newman, and told them: "This is a great practice, a great practice."

Jason Kidd, who returned to the Nets this season partly because he was able to lure Mourning to join him, was at the other end of the court, shooting on his own, when the incident began, and he remained there through most of it.

"You've got to have that intensity if you want to be successful," Kidd said. "The intensity between Zo and Kenyon, that's going to happen. You've got two warriors going at it to help their teams win. It's a good, spirited practice. You need that. What happens on the court stays on the court. That's the end of it."

Although players and coaches tried to play the incident down, the words dealt with touchy subjects.

Mourning was clearly angered that Martin raised the issue of his kidney ailment. Mourning sees a doctor at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center regularly, gets weekly injections of medication and has his blood and chemical levels monitored closely.

Because Mourning, 33, is risking his long-term health and his N.B.A. legacy for a shot at his first championship, he has had some difficulty relating to younger players who have already been to the finals.

Mourning said that he felt "cocky and invincible" when he was younger, but that the possibility of having to undergo dialysis or a kidney transplant had made him take less for granted. These days, he must strictly monitor his diet, he usually stays in his hotel room on road trips and he is not allowed to take anti-inflammatory medication.

"In a way, I do feel kind of old," Mourning said Wednesday.

Jefferson, whose laughter precipitated the incident, is known for his playful nature, while Mourning is recognized for his stern, scowling approach.

"When they get mad, I start laughing," Jefferson said. "K-Mart likes to keep going. Me and K-Mart have been in that situation many times, just yelling at each other, bickering, ready to go at it, but we respect each other ridiculously. Even if we were to start pushing and shoving, next day we'd be right there trying to fight somebody on the court. That ain't no different than anything. You all just walked in at the right time. Since I've been here three years there's 10 situations like that. We love each other. We all love each other."

The practice had been, as Scott described it, like training camp, a much more physical and demanding session than usual. Before Mourning and Martin went after each other, the starting center, Jason Collins, had already departed for stitches after he was inadvertently elbowed.

"This is a family," Scott said. "If you've got any brothers and sisters in your family, you know you're going to have some times where you end up having fights and arguments, but you still care for them just the same. Well, this is the same situation here. You've got two warriors that went at it a little bit today, and when it was all said and done, both of them understand that they've got to go to war together, and we'll be fine."

Scott has publicly criticized the Nets on several occasions this season for a lack of effort and urgency, offending several players. Mourning, on the other hand, asked Scott to be even more vocal and tried to carry his message into the locker room.

Some of the Nets have been much more casual than Mourning about the team's early-season struggles because they remain certain they can turn it around. Mourning hopes their confidence, bred in the past two years, is not complacency.

"Zo's just being Zo," Scott said. "He's been a leader all his life. It's not going to change now because his role is changed.

"Right now, we're not playing up to our capabilities and we've got a lot of guys that are not very happy about it. I addressed it for a second out there, and that was it. Like I said, I liked what I saw today in practice. So, no, there's no need to address it at all."

Murphy3
11-21-2003, 01:00 AM
does anyone come out of this looking good?

bogey
11-21-2003, 01:14 AM
Reason #75 why I am thankful the Kidney signed with NJ and not Dallas.

dirno2000
11-21-2003, 01:33 AM
Originally posted by: Murphy3
does anyone come out of this looking good?

Nope.

I do like the fact that although Zo can't really help on the court, he's trying to provide some leadership. Unfortunately, Martin and Jefferson want no part of that. It would have been nice to have Morning around for his presence and attitude. Of course he doesn't seem to be able to rebound or defend anymore, and that presence isn't worth 20mil.

bogey
11-21-2003, 01:51 AM
Mourning will never finish that contract. he will be on dialysis before he plays 75 games in a season.

MavKikiNYC
11-21-2003, 09:11 AM
Originally posted by: dirno2000

Originally posted by: Murphy3
does anyone come out of this looking good?

Nope.

I do like the fact that although Zo can't really help on the court, he's trying to provide some leadership. Unfortunately, Martin and Jefferson want no part of that. It would have been nice to have Morning around for his presence and attitude. Of course he doesn't seem to be able to rebound or defend anymore, and that presence isn't worth 20mil.

1) This is what Cuban wanted to pay 20+m for?

2) I can't stand Kenyon Martin's attitude, but Mourning's form of "leadership" is pretty Neanderthal too, if you ask me. And given his lack of productivity so far, he really isn't in much of a position to be calling anybody out.

3) I also find it incredible that teams still use fitness/exercise like a "suicide drill" to "punish" players for losing some kind of silly practice contest--talk about creating a negative association with fitness. They should play for money--$1000, $1500, $2500 per player, per practice session. That's what they're playing for.

Simon2
11-21-2003, 09:43 AM
This is in a way funny and satisfying.

Satisfying = Mourning dissed the Mavs to play for the greater organization called the New Jersey Nets. Incidentally, the Nets are being sold. Thank God Mourning didn't sign here. Although, I doubt he would have any problems with the Mavs work ethic.

Funny = K-Mart and Mourning almost coming to blows? Who would have thought of that? LoL!

Actually, I think its sad that they are making fun of Mourning. I think the kidney would be off limits in any teasing since its serious stuff. Shows the attitude of K-Mart and Jefferson. Ever since I saw K-Mart, he has always appeared to be an a**hole to me. Maybe Mourning should have laid him on his back. Although, we've seen Mourning fight. He isn't good at it. We'll probably Van Gundy holding on to his ankle might have something to do with it.

dirno2000
11-21-2003, 10:07 AM
I guess you can call his leadership style Neanderthal, but isn't that the norm in sports?

True, Morning has not contributed much this year. Does that mean he should sit quietly while a two time conference champ with basically the same team starts the season 5-6? If Dallas were 5-6 I would hope that they wouldn’t find much funny on the court. The difference is that our players listen to vets like Avery Johnson. Steve and Dirk could have blown off Avery since he wasn't good enough to contribute; yet they listened to his message. Yes, I know Avery has a ring and Zo doesn't. On the other hand, he got his ring playing with one of the greatest 4/5 combos of all time and he was probably the weak link of the starting lineup. I think K-Mart and Jefferson need to grow up.

bogey
11-21-2003, 11:37 AM
Tony Kornheiser was ripping into KMart today. Apparently he did the same thing to Van Horn and demanded that Van Horn be traded. He probably doesn't have the cojones to demand Mourning be traded.

Kornheiser ripped into Mourning too though.

MavKikiNYC
11-21-2003, 12:36 PM
I guess you can call his leadership style Neanderthal, but isn't that the norm in sports?

Somehow I can't quite picture David Robinson cussing out and threatening his teammates if he thought they were being less than serious in practice. And yet he was a team leader. Likewise, it's hard to imagine Avery Johnson challenging any of the Mavericks to a fight for underperforming. Maybe some Spurs insider has anecdotes to the contrary.

It does appear to be the norm for Mourning though, and it appears to be beyond its useful life. The problem with that type of 'leadership' is precisely that once a player is unable to back up his 'threats' and 'negative motivation' approach with game-performance, his teammates are a lot less willing and/or likely to respond.

A similar thing probably happened to Michael Jordan with the Wizlets. Even though he himself was still producing at a relatively high level, he wasn't necessarily making the other players better, and wasn't consistently able to be the difference between winning and losing. His lecturing and cajoling and hectoring and back-in-the-day smack talkin' to the younger players cost him their respect as a team leader, and cost him his position with the team.

LRB
11-21-2003, 12:37 PM
KMart has lots of athletic ability and NBA talent but it sounds like he lacks the maturity of 4 yearold. I just can't every seem him being worth a damn as a leader without fundamental changes.

Big Boy Laroux
11-21-2003, 01:23 PM
what about kidd? the supposed leader of the team is over shooting by himself during the whole thing? way to have balls and step in the jason...

martin is still ridiculously immature.

LRB
11-21-2003, 01:59 PM
Originally posted by: Big Boy Laroux
what about kidd? the supposed leader of the team is over shooting by himself during the whole thing? way to have balls and step in the jason...

martin is still ridiculously immature.

BBL I agree and would say that the entire team seem to be lacking in the leadership quality. Of course what does it really matter anyways, we all know that NJ and everyother Leastern Conference "Contender" is only playing for 2nd place. Until some of the power shifts out of the west this will be the case. And things only look to get worse with realignment next year with the East losing one of it's better teams to the West and getting a horrible new franchise will be be a lottery entry for years to come.

XERXES
11-21-2003, 02:29 PM
Do you think Mourning wishes he had a "do-over" on the NJ over Dallas decision?

kingrex
11-21-2003, 04:05 PM
It is sad to see Mourning deteriorate to the player he is now. I remember this talented young kid who started his career in Georgetown. He had polished post moves for a college player and a warriors mentality. I thought he was great then and has been a fan of his for a long time. I commend him for laying all out to keep playing the game he loves. This was an unfortunate situation that may not have any bearing on the rest of the season.

Simon2
11-21-2003, 09:31 PM
Originally posted by: XERXES
Do you think Mourning wishes he had a "do-over" on the NJ over Dallas decision?

I definitely think he would do a "do-over". The Mavs don't do any of the trades if Mourning signs here though. I would rather have Walker and Jamison. Mourning would do a "do-over" but I think the Mavs are happy.

It is sad that Kidd didn't do anything.