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Wednesday, July 16
Signing: Nets confident Zo's health has improved

Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Alonzo Mourning signed Wednesday with the New Jersey Nets, who are hoping the one-time Miami star will provide the inside game they need to compete with the best teams in the NBA's Western Conference.

Mavs lose out
Mark Cuban and the Mavericks thought they had an oral agreement with Alonzo Mourning.

At least that's what Mourning's agent allegedly told the Mavs, Cuban said in Thursday's editions of The Dallas Morning News.

"Our reality is that we focused on Alonzo and thought we had him," Cuban said in an e-mail response to the newspaper. "Zo's agent (Jeff Wechsler) told us he was basically a done deal. That there was no reason he could think of that Zo wasn't going to be a Maverick."

"I stuck to protocol and didn't go around the agent after he told me that. You don't just call up players and say, 'Hey, I want to make sure your agent is fully informed and you aren't doing something behind his back. Turns out he wasn't and Zo was, and Zo went another direction.'"

Wechsler didn't return phone messages to the newspaper.

-- news services

The free-agent center signed a multiyear contract. The deal is believed to be worth $22 million over four years.

Mourning said the opportunity to play with Jason Kidd and the chance to win an NBA title were the main factors in his decision to sign with New Jersey.

"That was the main reason I came here, because of the winning attitude of this team and the direction it's going in,'' said Mourning, who was presented with a No. 33 jersey. "I can't think of a player in this league that doesn't want to play with Jason Kidd.

"He's proven he can make not only you but a whole team better.''

Mourning, a seven-time All-Star, sat out the entire 2002-03 season due to a kidney ailment, but Nets officials are confident Mourning's health has improved enough to justify adding him to their roster.

"Obviously, I'm confident or we wouldn't have signed him,'' Nets president Rod Thorn said. "Our feeling is he's going to be fine. There's always a risk and a reward. We felt the reward was worth the risk.''

The Nets have made the NBA finals the last two seasons, but lost in four games to Los Angeles and six to San Antonio, in part because of the inside strength of Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan. Last season, the Nets rotated Jason Collins, Aaron Williams and Dikembe Mutombo at center.

"We are very pleased to add a player of Alonzo's stature to our roster,'' Thorn said. "His physical presence down low and the mental toughness he brings to the game will strengthen our team immeasurably.''

Mourning, 33, played three seasons with the Charlotte Hornets before joining the Heat in 1995. In a 10-year career, he has averaged 20.3 points and 9.8 rebounds, shooting 53 percent from the field.

He had completed a seven-year, $105 million contract with the Heat.

Kidd, who was also a free agent, had asked the team to sign Mourning. Kidd agreed Friday to re-sign with the Nets, shortly after the team announced its intent to add Mourning.

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