What does it mean to be your team’s franchise player? Alonzo Mourning gave a curious response to that question before Wednesday’s 112-91 thrashing by the Bulls, which eliminated the Heat from postseason play.
Mourning spoke of his face gracing magazine covers, media guides and TV screens.
He didn’t talk much about points, rebounds and blocked shots.
That was wise, because after stinking up the United Center in Games 1 and 2, Mourning had just 24 points, 10 boards and a single rejection - not very impressive for a man who turned down $13 million a year from the Hornets in hopes of getting $15 million a year from the Heat.
“I’m the franchise player,” Mourning insisted. “(But) to tell you the truth, I haven’t really performed at that level yet.”
He finally did Wednesday night, leading his team in more than just shoves and scowls. He torched the Bulls for 30 points and eight rebounds.
Although Mourning had taken some heat for his lackluster performances in Chicago, he said he took no enjoyment from his high-octane output in Game 3.
“I don’t care about my offense,” Mourning said. “The only thing I’m concerned about is making my teammates better. If I had 50 (points), we still would have gotten blown out.”
Heat guard Rex Chapman agreed that Mourning had nothing to prove except in “the media’s eyes.”
“He didn’t have to prove anything to us,” Chapman said. “We know what kind of player he is.”
After Mourning’s performance Wednesday, the Heat would be suicidal not to make a serious run at its big man, its franchise player.
For the game, Mourning hit 11 of 19 shots and eight free throws.
And although Mourning spent much of the post-game interviews insisting that team goals filled his mind, he said that his dreadful performances had bothered him.
“When I wasn’t contributing individually, it was tough on me,” he said. “I’m my biggest critic and I really got down on myself.”
He didn’t seem any happier after Wednesday night.