Alonzo Mourning and the Toronto Raptors agreed on a buyout of his contract Friday, amid speculation the seven-time All-Star center will sign with the
Mourning, 35, was acquired from New Jersey in a trade for Vince Carter on Dec. 17 but never reported to the Raptors.
Should he clear waivers -- which is likely because he's owed at least $14 million under his current contract -- Mourning would be free to sign with
the Heat on Tuesday.
Speaking on a radio show hosted by his former college coach, John Thompson, Mourning -- who lives in Miami and whose foundation is based there --
strongly indicated that he's hoping for a reunion with the Heat.
"I can still play this game at a high level; I've proven that," Mourning told WTEM-AM radio Friday. "Come in and use my skills to help contribute to
the success of a team and make things a lot easier for them. ... I want to be home. I want to be close to my family. I want to be close to my
foundation and my business interests."
Only three teams have the cap room, or trade exceptions, necessary to claim Mourning off waivers -- the Bobcats, Rockets and Nets -- but none appears
likely to be willing to swallow the remaining $15 million Mourning has left on his contract.
"I think this is really a win-win for both Alonzo and the Raptors," Mourning's agent, Jeff Weschler, told ESPN Insider Chad Ford. "Clearly, Alonzo
wasn't in their long-term plans and Zo wanted the opportunity to explore his options with other teams."
The Raptors didn't reveal the financial details of the buyout, but a source close to the negotiation told Ford that Mourning will receive roughly $10
million of the $15 million that the team still owed him. The amount will be prorated, for cap purposes, over the next two seasons.
Mourning has played a total of 30 games under a contract that will end up paying him $17 million. That means that Mourning earned $566,666 per game
under the contract.
So even though Mourning is giving up roughly $5 million to get out of his contract, his per-game total was the richest in NBA history.
Toronto general manager Rob Babcock said a news conference will be held before Friday night's game against Philadelphia.
"Alonzo does not meet our medical conditions to play for our basketball team," Babcock said in a statement. "While we realize it may be possible for
him to play in limited circumstances, we've been able to confirm our expectations that because of his medical issues he would not be able to fit into
our long-term strategy of building something sustainable.
"We felt it was in the best interests of the Raptors to reach a financial settlement which would provide us additional financial flexibility. We are
pleased with the deal we've been able to make and wish Alonzo the best in his future."
Babcock said in December that Mourning was included in the Carter trade so the salaries would match up. Toronto also acquired forwards Aaron Williams
and Eric Williams and two first-round draft picks.
The rookie general manager has been criticized for getting little in return for Carter, who seems rejuvenated in New Jersey.
The 35-year-old center, who underwent a kidney transplant Dec. 19, 2003, stopped playing in early December because of what he said were hip, knee,
hand and leg problems. He was openly unhappy with the Nets' offseason moves, and had demanded a trade to a contender. The Nets and Mourning discussed
buying out his contract, but the two sides were too far apart.
Weschler refused to substantiate talk that his client will immediately sign with the Heat once he clears waivers, but Mourning's comments late Friday
made it clear the player would be happy if that were the case.
"We haven't gotten that far yet," Weschler said before Mourning's radio interview. "We just wanted to clear up this situation first."
So that's the official line, but a source in Miami told Ford that the team likely would begin negotiations with Mourning once he clears waivers with
an eye toward adding him to the team, and multiple sources said a deal could happen quickly.
If Mourning is healthy enough to play, his addition should provide some much-needed depth up front for the Heat, Ford reported. Before leaving the
Nets, Mourning was averaging 10.4 points per game, 7 rebounds per game and 2.3 blocks per game. The goal would be to have Mourning playing 10 to 15
minutes a night to give Shaq some much-needed rest going into the home stretch.
Heat executives had no immediate comment.
"It doesn't concern anybody at this point because nothing's happened," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Everything's hypothetical. There's nothing to
If Mourning becomes a free agent, Miami -- which has the Eastern Conference's best record, but is only 11-10 against the West -- could sign him for a
prorated share of the $1.1 million veteran minimum salary, which would work out to be around $350,000 for the remainder of the year.
"Zo would make any team better," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "We've all got a great relationship. We've all got great respect for him."
Added Heat center Shaquille O'Neal: "It definitely makes us stronger and it's something I accept."
The notion of Mourning's return to Miami, for whom he was under contract for eight years, isn't new; rumors that he'd like to be back have swirled for
weeks. He was at Miami's home game against Houston on Jan. 30, and drew loud cheers from fans who noticed him leaving through a courtside tunnel.
Lisa Joseph, a spokeswoman for Mourning, said he would have no comment Friday.
Mourning averaged 10.4 points and 7.1 rebounds in 18 games for the Nets this season. He played in 12 games for the Nets in 2003-04, retiring three
weeks into that season because of complications from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease that was first diagnosed in 2000.
The kidney disease kept Mourning out for much of Miami's 2000-01 season, but he played in 75 games the next year and made the All-Star team. Yet his
condition deteriorated again and he missed the entire 2002-03 season, his last in a $105 million, seven-year deal with the Heat.
Mourning was hindered by an assortment of injuries this season. An aching right hip makes his leg weak. His right pinkie has torn tendons, and his
right knee and right Achilles tendon are sore.
Wechsler wouldn't couldn't comment on Mourning's health status. A message left for Dr. Gerald Appel, one of Mourning's physicians, wasn't returned.
Since joining the NBA out of Georgetown in 1992, Mourning -- who lives in Miami -- has averaged 19.8 points and 9.6 rebounds in 652 career
Information from ESPN Insider Chad Ford and The Associated Press was used in this report.