- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

MIAMI Alonzo Mourning's kidney condition has deteriorated and will probably prevent him from playing this season, a source close to the Miami Heat center said yesterday.

The Heat released a statement confirming that Mourning would be sidelined indefinitely because doctors don't believe he's healthy enough to play.

Mourning is certain to miss the start of the season, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Heat opener is Oct.30.

The 32-year-old Mourning was diagnosed in October 2000 with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a career-threatening kidney disease. He played in just the final 13 games that season but played in 75 games last season and made the All-Star team for the seventh time.

The Heat said a timetable for his return hasn't been determined. Mourning's publicist, Lisa Johnson, said doctors haven't told him he's out for the entire season, and he hopes to play again eventually.

"He's not retiring," she said. "There will be no announcement that he's retiring."

Johnson said she spoke with Mourning yesterday.

"His spirits are great," she said. "He's fine. He's doing well. He's just trying to get back healthy."

Mourning was unavailable for comment.

"Alonzo wants to keep everything private," Heat spokesman Tim Donovan said.

Coach Pat Riley declined to comment but will hold a news conference today.

In the early stages of the disease, Mourning's symptoms included stiff, swollen joints, mood swings, a poor appetite and fatigue. But last season the disease was in remission, meaning his kidneys stopped deteriorating.

Medication improved his blood pressure, hemoglobin and cholesterol, all affected by his ailment. He averaged 15.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 32.7 minutes per game, missing just seven games.

Mourning has acknowledged that his prognosis is uncertain, and that a transplant might eventually be necessary. Sean Elliott of the San Antonio Spurs contracted a less serious form of focal glomerulosclerosis and required a transplant in 1999.

Still, the setback was unexpected. Just last month, Dr. Victor Richards said Mourning's test results were encouraging.

"He has been very active and it seems he's in good condition now," Richards said in an interview Aug. 15. "Since I've been seeing him, he's feeling as good as he ever felt. I'm optimistic he'll continue to feel well."

Mourning had been seeing a physician every two weeks for checkups, and the latest round of tests apparently revealed the change in his condition. Richards and Dr. Gerald Appel, who have treated Mourning since his diagnosis, didn't return calls seeking comment.

Even with Mourning healthy, the Heat went 36-46 last season, and Riley missed the playoffs for the first time in his 20-year coaching career. There had been speculation this summer that Riley might trade Mourning, who is to make $20.6 million this season in the final year of a seven-year contract.

In a recent interview, Mourning said he hates going to the doctor.

"I'm petrified," he said, "because I'm afraid of what they're going to tell me."

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