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Mourning a Fan in New Jersey

March 21, 2004|Tom Canavan | Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — An emotionally torn Alonzo Mourning joined the New Jersey Nets for a game for the first time since undergoing a kidney transplant in December.

"To tell you the truth, it's torture for me to come around," Mourning said between halves of the game with the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night. "It's hard for me, as much as I love my teammates and the organization. I will be around, but I won't be around every night."

Dressed in a neutral-colored suit, a very fit looking Mourning sat behind the Nets' bench next to T.J. Kidd, point guard Jason Kidd's son.

Mourning said he is feeling better since receiving a kidney from a cousin on Dec. 19 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

The 34-year-old has spent his days at home with his family, taking medicine to avoid organ rejection, working out moderately and focusing on getting better. He said he has missed the camaraderie of being a pro athlete.

"I feel like I have a new motor in me," Mourning said. "The new organ is doing its job and the doctors are very pleased with my progress. It's only been 11 weeks. Considering how long it's been, I have made a lot of progress."

Returning to the NBA has never crossed his mind, the seven-time NBA All-Star said.

"The further I get away from the surgery without having any complications, the better off I am," said Mourning, noting the threat of organ rejection still exists.

Mourning, who was visited in the hospital by teammates, went to the Nets' practice facility Wednesday. He took part in team pictures.

He then decided to attend the important game with the Pistons.

"I came here tonight to support them," Mourning said. "They will always have a place in my heart. I just wish I could do a whole lot more."

Mourning said watching the game was difficult.

"It's very hard," Mourning said. "That's why I don't come around, because of the difficulty and because of the fact I have to get myself right.

"I have to focus on getting myself right. That's the most important thing now. Basketball is secondary. I wish I could do a lot more for the team and organization, but I have to be smart with this. I can't be foolish."

Mourning retired on Nov. 24 because of complications from the kidney disease focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. He was diagnosed before the 2000-01 season, when he was with the Miami Heat.

Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, affects the kidney filters that remove toxins from the blood. In the weeks before Mourning's retirement, tests showed his kidney function deteriorated and the chemical imbalances in his blood made it dangerous for him to play.

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