New York Times
: After a draining practice session, Alonzo Mourning and half of the Nets team, mostly second-unit players, were making their way through the final strides of a set of suicide drills, punishment for losing a contest to the rest of the team Thursday at the Champion Center, the team's practice facility. As Mourning trudged to the finish behind his teammates, already unhappy, he heard laughter from the players who were watching.
Mourning snapped in reaction to the frustration of the drills, the team's troubles on the court and the cavalier attitude he has perceived during the Nets' 5-6 start this season. Mourning stalked over to where the players were laughing and, in a profanity-laden diatribe, shouted in part: "This ain't funny. This is about winning."
Richard Jefferson, a third-year forward who was one of the players who were laughing, told Mourning that indeed it wasn't funny, it was "hilarious."
When Kenyon Martin, a fourth-year forward, jumped in by mocking Mourning's recent performance on the court and commenting that Mourning would not have to run if he would improve his rebounding, Mourning attacked Martin's leadership and toughness.
Mourning told Martin: "At least I'm out there on the court, not in the training room. I'm trying to make the best of my time."
"You can't be a leader in the trainer's room crying, `My ankle, my ankle,' " Mourning added, referring to the sprained ankle that sidelined Martin for five games. Martin responded by mocking Mourning, muttering, "My kidney, my kidney."
Mourning did not immediately react to that comment. But when the players separated into groups for the next part of practice, he suddenly charged toward Martin before being restrained by teammates as he yelled, using more profanity: "What did you say about my kidney? Don't talk about my kidney. I'll put you on your back."
Teammates halted Mourning and kept him and Martin from getting close enough to come to blows. Meanwhile, Coach Byron Scott, who had watched from the far side of the court as the altercation began, stepped in front of Martin and spoke calmly to him.
The practice then resumed with Mourning and Martin not speaking to each other. The Nets' vice president for public relations, Gary Sussman, said later that neither player would be available to reporters.
Mourning had voiced his displeasure on Wednesday with the team's work ethic and attentiveness.
"I didn't expect it to be like this," Mourning, who has never played in the N.B.A. finals, said on Wednesday in reference to the Nets, the Eastern Conference champions the past two seasons. "I thought we'd come out strong and give more effort. Some guys work their whole careers and never get a chance to go to the finals."
Asked if he would have signed with the Nets if he knew how they would approach the beginning of this season, Mourning said, "Don't know."
"The guys were getting along great," said Thorn, who indicated that neither player would be punished. "Whatever happened in practice is part of practice. There was obviously no carryover. Everyone was in a festive mood and there were no problems at all."
Scott said that such heated exchanges do not happen often.
"I don't know if it's once a year; it's not once a week," he said. "It's not once a year, either. I'm not upset about it."