Olden Polynice of the Clippers never encountered a more spirited, competitive opponent than Alonzo Mourning.
"It seemed like we always got into a fight or something," the 14-year NBA veteran said Monday after the surprise announcement that Mourning needed a kidney transplant and was retiring from the New Jersey Nets. "We always squared off, but we never came to blows. It was a respect kind of thing.
"I was never intimidated by his game, but I always respected how hard he played and I knew that if I wasn't ready, he was going to destroy me. I appreciated him for that, for making me play as hard as I did."
Polynice empathized with Mourning -- "I'm just going to pray for him and hope things work out for the best" -- and Kenyon Martin. Last week, the Net teammates had to be separated after an argument in which Mourning told Martin he should play hurt and Martin responded by yelling at Mourning, "My kidney! My kidney!"
Said Polynice, whose career has been marked by oddball behavior: "I feel kind of bad for Kenyon because I know he feels like ... right about now."
Elton Brand, sidelined since opening night because of a broken right foot, said that he hopes to be practicing with his teammates "in the next week or so," but declined to target a date for his return to the lineup.
"It's not really up to me," he said. "It's the doctors; it's a team effort. But I want to get back as soon as possible."
-- Jerry Crowe