MIAMI LAKES, Fla. (AP) -Alonzo Mourning is close to deciding if he'll play for the Miami Heat next season, saying Saturday that the choice hinges somewhat on other unresolved matters that will affect the franchise's immediate future.
Foremost on that list? Mourning wants to know if Heat coach Pat Riley will be back on the sidelines.
``That's definitely a factor,'' Mourning said. ``Stay tuned.''
Mourning did not specifically say he'll be back only if Riley returns, or that he'd definitely retire if Riley steps aside. At a promotional appearance for his upcoming Zo's Summer Groove fundraiser, Mourning told fans - some of whom spent more than two hours waiting outside a supermarket a few miles north of downtown Miami - he's still simply weighing options.
``My thought would be, that since he hasn't expressed anything to this point, we're hopeful he plans to give it another run,'' Heat general manager Randy Pfund said.
Riley's timetable for his own decision isn't known, but many Heat players, including Shaquille O'Neal, have said in recent weeks they expect him to coach at least one more year.
On April 30, after the 2006 NBA champions were swept from this year's playoffs by the Chicago Bulls, Mourning said he planned to quickly decide about next season. He has a player option worth $2.75 million. Mourning has said his family would be supportive if he chose to play.
Now, nearly two months have passed, and his plans are still undetermined.
``I really haven't decided,'' Mourning said to one man while taking a quick break from carefully signing basketballs, shirts, hats and photos. ``I'm going to make a decision soon. Very soon.''
The uncertainty over Mourning's future may complicate matters for the Heat, who are preparing for Thursday's draft and the July 1 start of free agency.
If the 37-year-old Mourning doesn't come back for what would be his 15th season - not including a year he missed because of kidney disease that necessitated a transplant in December 2003 - the Heat almost certainly must seek another big man for added depth behind O'Neal. Michael Doleac, who played behind O'Neal and Mourning for much of last season, is already under contract for 2007-08.
``It's all in Zo's hands,'' Pfund said. ``I know there's been conversations, but I don't think anybody really is making a big, blanket statement. There's been nothing finalized. It's on Zo. We have great respect for Zo and what he's gone through and what he means to the organization, and we respect the fact he probably wants to take some time before he totally commits. So there's been no pressure. We're waiting for him to hopefully announce he wants to be back.''
Mourning started 43 of Miami's 82 regular season games, averaging 8.2 points and blocking 178 shots. His 5.44 blocks per 48 minutes gave him the highest average in the NBA, nearly a full block ahead of Denver's Marcus Camby and nearly two blocks better than anyone else in the league.
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