Mavericks miss out on Mourning

Friday, July 11th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Alonzo Mourning will sign a free-agent contract with the New Jersey Nets next week, Dallas owner Mark Cuban said Friday.

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.

``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.''

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.

Mourning can't officially sign with the Nets until next Wednesday.

Mourning was diagnosed with a kidney disease in October 2000, and missed the first 69 games of that season. He played the full 2001-02 season, averaging 15.7 points and 8.4 rebounds, but missed all of last year when the ailment worsened.

If he joins New Jersey, he would 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.

But the Nets also must keep free agent Jason Kidd, who could leave to sign with the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

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.

Remaining big-man options for the Mavericks include P.J. Brown and Brad Miller, but Brown can get more money elsewhere and Miller might be leaning toward re-signing with the Pacers now that O'Neal is staying.

Dallas won a franchise-best 60 games last season and reached the Western Conference finals, where it lost to eventual NBA champion San Antonio. The West has gotten a lot tougher in recent days, especially with the Lakers gearing up for a run toward a fourth title in five years.

Cuban, though, doesn't seem concerned.

``What other teams do is up to them,'' he said.