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'Zo misses camaraderie of playing

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- An emotionally torn Alonzo Mourning
joined the New Jersey Nets for a game for the first time since
undergoing a kidney transplant in December.

"To tell you the truth, it's torture for me to come around,"
Mourning said between halves of the game with the Detroit Pistons
on Thursday night. "It's hard for me, as much as I love my
teammates and the organization. I will be around, but I won't be
around every night."

Dressed in a neutral-colored suit, a very fit looking Mourning
sat behind the Nets' bench next to T.J. Kidd, point guard Jason Kidd's son.

Mourning said he is feeling better since receiving a kidney
from a cousin on Dec. 19 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia
University Medical Center.

The 34-year-old has spent his days at home with his family,
taking medicine to avoid organ rejection, working out moderately
and focusing on getting better. He said he has missed the
camaraderie of being a pro athlete.

"I feel like I have a new motor in me," Mourning said. "The
new organ is doing its job and the doctors are very pleased with my
progress. It's only been 11 weeks. Considering how long it's been,
I have made a lot of progress."

Returning to the NBA has never crossed his mind, the seven-time
NBA All-Star said.

"The further I get away from the surgery without having any
complications, the better off I am," said Mourning, noting the
threat of organ rejection still exists.

Mourning, who was visited in the hospital by teammates, went to
the Nets' practice facility Wednesday. He took part in team
pictures.

He then decided to attend the important game with the Pistons.

"I came here tonight to support them," Mourning said. "They
will always have a place in my heart. I just wish I could do a
whole lot more."

Mourning said watching the game was difficult.

"It's very hard," Mourning said. "That's why I don't come
around, because of the difficulty and because of the fact I have to
get myself right.

"I have to focus on getting myself right. That's the most
important thing now. Basketball is secondary. I wish I could do a
lot more for the team and organization, but I have to be smart with
this. I can't be foolish."

Mourning retired on Nov. 24 because of complications from the
kidney disease focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. He was diagnosed
before the 2000-01 season, when he was with the Miami Heat.

Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, affects the kidney
filters that remove toxins from the blood. In the weeks before
Mourning's retirement, tests showed his kidney function
deteriorated and the chemical imbalances in his blood made it
dangerous for him to play.

Since his surgery, the Nets have been sold to developer Bruce
Ratner and coach Byron Scott was fired and replaced by Lawrence
Frank, who led them on a 14-game winning streak.

Ratner plans to move the team from New Jersey to Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Change," Mourning said. "It's the one thing we can't
control, especially with this league. You are always going to have
some change. It's how you deal with it. This is a cold business."