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Mourning in playoffs? Heat may hold spot

MIAMI — Alonzo Mourning will have a spot on the Miami Heat playoff roster, even though he's still not expected to play this season.

Coach Pat Riley said he would make the move as a precaution because he has been burned before by the NBA freeze on postseason rosters. Mourning is being treated for a kidney ailment discovered last October.

Riley said his comments don't reflect any change in the prognosis that Mourning will miss the entire regular season and the playoffs.

"I have not coached this team at all with any plans of Zo coming back," Riley said.

But if the Heat left Mourning off the roster at the start of the playoffs, the All-Star center would be unavailable for the rest of the postseason, even if he were later given medical clearance to play.

For Riley, the situation brings back memories of the 1994 NBA Finals. He left Doc Rivers off the New York Knicks' playoff roster that year because the veteran point guard was sidelined with a knee injury. Six weeks later, Rivers was deemed fit to play in the finals, but league rules prevented him from being activated.

"He was ready to go in the finals, and to this day I kick myself in the butt, because he could have made a huge difference in that series," Riley said.

The Knicks lost to Houston in seven games.

Mourning has practiced with the Heat's second team on a regular but limited basis in recent weeks. Mourning is at his playing weight of 260 pounds but not close to playing shape.

"He has his good days and bad days" on the court, Riley said. "He looks like a guy who hasn't played basketball for a year."

Playoff rosters must be filed with the NBA on April 19 and can't be changed unless a team is hit with a multitude of injuries or illnesses.

Including Mourning on the 12-player playoff roster involves little risk for the Heat, because Riley rarely uses more than eight players in his rotation.

Riley said he'll also save a playoff roster spot for guard Eddie Jones, who is expected to be sidelined for several weeks at least with a dislocated shoulder.