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Friday, July 11
Mourning agrees to four-year, $20M deal news services

New Jersey fans likely owe a great deal of thanks to Alonzo Mourning.

The free-agent center plans to sign with the New Jersey Nets, paving the way for Jason Kidd to re-sign in New Jersey, a league source who spoke with Mourning's agent Thursday night told Insider's Chad Ford.

Mourning could announce as early as today that he'll sign a 4-year, $20 million contract with the Nets. He can't officially sign with the Nets until next Wednesday.

Kidd agreed to a six-year, $99 million deal later on Friday.

Jeffrey Wechsler, Mourning's agent, told the Insider source that Mourning agreed to sign with the Nets after receiving assurances that Kidd also will re-sign.

Later on Friday, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban confirmed Zo's move.

"We found out that Zo is going to NJ,'' Cuban wrote in an e-mail. "Why? A variety of reasons I can't go into, but foremost is that he felt he had less competition in the East.''

The Mavericks had been interested in signing the former All-Star, but now will have to look elsewhere to fill their void in the middle.

Cuban deferred further comment to Mourning and his agent. A Nets spokesman would not confirm the deal and a call to Mourning's agent, Jeffrey Wechsler, was not immediately returned.

Pat Riley, president and head coach of the Miami Heat, released a statement Friday that said Mourning would not be returning after failing to reach an agreement on a new deal.

Riley did not say where Mourning would be playing next season.

"Zo has received an opportunity that is impossible for us to match,'' Riley said. "We each really wanted to make this work, but both sides realized that it was probably time to make a change.''

Riley called Mourning the cornerstone of the franchise for the last eight years and thanked him for his contributions to the team on and off the court.

In an interview in Miami on Wednesday night, Mourning said he was flattered by suggestions that teams were offering him contracts as part of an overall effort to woo free agent Jason Kidd.

"I want to win. Jason wants to win,'' Mourning said, responding to a question about the possibility of playing with Kidd. "Who wouldn't want to play with Jason Kidd? Come on, man, he's the best point guard in the league. If you're a player and you're worth anything, obviously you would want to play with a point guard like Jason Kidd.''

Mourning said he had received at least five offers, but told supporters Wednesday night at the start of his annual South Florida charity event, Zo's Summer Groove, that there was a possibility he would be leaving the city. He had completed a seven-year, $105 million contract with the Heat.

"It's been a trying time for me,'' Mourning said. "One way or another, it will all end Wednesday.''

Mourning will be in Miami on Friday night at Zo's Summer Groove, his charity basketball game and dinner.

Mourning, 33, was diagnosed in October 2000 with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease that can eventually require a transplant. He played in just the final 13 games for the Heat in 2000-01, but appeared in 75 games the following season.

For his career, Mourning has averaged 20.3 points and 9.80 rebounds per game, but in the last two seasons he has played, his numbers have dropped off, to 13.6 and 7.80 in his abbreviated '00-01 season and 15.7 and 8.40 in '01-02.

Last September, shortly before training camp, Mourning was advised by doctors to skip the 2002-03 season because test results indicated his condition had worsened.

He has since received medical clearance for 2003-04.

Mourning will be reunited with former Georgetown teammate Dikembe Mutombo. The Nets, who won the East the past two seasons, are looking for more depth inside to compete with the top teams from the West.

Mourning was Dallas' most-coveted free agent. Cuban was in Miami the first day the two could meet to show how much he wanted him as his starting center. Although the Mavericks could only offer the midlevel exception, they sweetened the deal by making it for as many as four years.

The Mavs also were interested in Karl Malone, but he's headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, where Gary Payton also will be signing. Dallas also was going to bring in Jermaine O'Neal for a visit, but he canceled his trip upon deciding to stay with the Indiana Pacers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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