MIAMI (AP) -Knowing the question was coming, Miami center Alonzo Mourning leaned toward the microphones and tried to deliver a preemptive strike.
``Before we start the interview, I want to let you all know, I haven't decided whether or not I'm going to play next year,'' Mourning said Monday.
But it sounds like a decision will be coming soon from the 37-year-old, who has already talked over the notion of returning with his wife, Tracy - who gave him her blessing to return. Mourning will meet with Heat coach Pat Riley on Tuesday, and the topic of next season is certain to come up a few times.
``We'll see what the future holds,'' Mourning said. ``There's so many other opportunities out there in life for me, besides the game of basketball, that I'm truly looking forward to. I really am looking forward to a lot of other opportunities. I think I can make a decent living outside the game of basketball.''
Mourning is thought of as a backup, but actually started the same number of games this season as Shaquille O'Neal; Mourning made 43 regular-season starts, O'Neal - who was injured and missed about half the season - started 39 games during the season, then all four in Miami's first-round series with the Chicago Bulls, who finished the Heat's championship reign Sunday by completing a four-game sweep.
Mourning averaged 8.6 points during the season, his highest since averaging 15.7 in the 2001-02 campaign, plus blocked 178 shots.
``I think that I've accomplished enough as a player. I really have,'' said Mourning, whose career was derailed by kidney disease and a transplant in the early 2000s and who won his first championship ring last year. ``What else do I have to prove? ... All the individual accomplishments and accolades to the ultimate prize.''
It's statements like those that could indicate Mourning is leaning toward retiring.
James Posey, who dresses next to Mourning in the Miami locker room, simply doesn't believe that's the case.
``I'd be surprised,'' Posey said. ``I've been impressed. I've just seen a lot from Zo since I've been here. He's always going about a buck-10 in practices and shootarounds. He still has that passion and that love for the game. I remember one time we had a little shootaround practice and I promise you, he dunked like 96 times - and they weren't weak dunks.''
Clearly, Mourning can still play. The issue is whether he still wants - or needs - to play.
When the Heat won the NBA title last year, the decision on coming back was one Mourning wrestled with for weeks. This time, he wants to enjoy the summer, which is why the decision is going to come soon.
``You want to step away from the game on your own terms,'' Mourning said. ``So just understanding and knowing that I will have the ability to do that is more satisfying.''

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