Mourning Turns Up With Heat : Pro basketball: Center is traded for Rice, Reeves and Geiger after turning down Hornets.
A new era in the NBA dawned Friday, when center Alonzo Mourning, a 25-year-old, two-time all-star considered by the Charlotte Hornets as their cornerstone, turned down their $11-million-a-year offer and forced a trade.
That set up the first skirmish in a year that will see stars such as Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal eligible for free agency. Miami’s Pat Riley won it, sending Glen Rice, two more starters and a No. 1 pick to Charlotte for Mourning.
The Hornets also get guard Khalid Reeves and center Matt Geiger. Miami also added LeRon Ellis and Pete Myers.
Hornet owner George Shinn made a last attempt to sign Mourning last week, raising his offer to $11.2 million a year.
“He had no interest in it,” Shinn said. “He said, ‘No, you’ve got to get closer to my money.’ And it just broke my heart.”
It just made Riley’s day, though.
Mourning said at a news conference in Miami, “I came here with the intention of being here for the rest of my career.”
Mourning held the deal up for a day, unwilling to commit himself to joining a stripped-down Heat team but said he changed his mind overnight.
“I was ready to get on with the season,” he said. “I didn’t want to start the year off in Charlotte knowing that I could be out of a Charlotte uniform every other hour. I didn’t want to play under those circumstances.”
The Lakers, who would have liked to make Mourning an offer on the open market next summer, pursued a trade--Charlotte officials say they offered Vlade Divac--but weren’t willing to pay more than $10 million a year.
The Hornets wound up having to open their season in Chicago, without Mourning, Ellis, Myers or any of their new teammates. The Bulls cruised to a 105-91 victory.
“It’s a huge loss,” the Hornets’ Robert Parish said. “You don’t replace an Alonzo Mourning. That type of talent doesn’t come very often.”
Parish called Rice “a hell of a player, but let’s face it, he’s no Alonzo Mourning.”
The deal was a result of the new labor agreement that abolished restricted free agency and set free players with early termination options, such as Mourning and O’Neal.
The Hornets originally signed Mourning to a seven-year contract but gave him an “out” after his fourth season. Under the rules then in effect, Charlotte could have matched any offer. The Hornets had been negotiating with Mourning for two years on an extension--their last offer was $100 million over 10 seasons--but never got it done.
This fall, with the Hornets under the gun, Shinn met with Mourning’s agent, David Falk, and was given the new price: $91 million over seven years. Falk also gave his “protect your assets” speech, telling Shinn if he couldn’t sign Mourning, he had better trade him or he would get nothing back.
Riley then stepped up, reportedly outbidding the only other owner thought to be willing to pay $13 million a year, Portland’s Paul Allen.
Mourning has played three seasons, appeared in two All-Star games and has career averages of 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
When Mourning was asked what Riley expected of him in Miami, which opens the season at home against Cleveland tonight, the center said the two hadn’t discussed the matter.
Riley then made it clear: “25 points, 20 rebounds.”
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