Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THE HEAT IS ON Mourning and Johnson Resume Rivalry on Court

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THE HEAT IS ON Mourning and Johnson Resume Rivalry on Court

Article excerpt

This was last week, just before the Miami Heat's team bus left Madison Square Garden under a hail of hurled garbage: Radio broadcaster Ed Pinckney, who is 6-9, was approached by a small man who asked whether Pinckney was with the Heat.

When Pinckney said yes, the Knicks fan screamed obscenity after obscenity until finally, spent, he insulted the mothers of Pinckney and everyone in Pinckney's party. Squeeze everything out of that quintessential Heat-Knicks moment until all you have left in your hands is unfiltered rage, and you'll know what hate looks like.

Or, if you prefer, you can just watch Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson play in Game 3 of the first-round series tonight.

"Tumultuous, fiery, hostile," is how Heat forward P.J. Brown describes the Mourning-Johnson relationship. "L.J.'s feelings toward Zo explain why he gets so jacked up to play us. I've seen L.J. play on tape and on my satellite dish, and everything is crisper, faster, higher, better against us than it ever is against anybody else. His energy level is totally different. If he played like that against everybody, he'd be an all-star every year."

Statistical proof: L.J. has averaged 16.5 points and 6.8 rebounds against Miami this year -- the highest per-minute totals he has against any team. His high for offensive rebounds? Came against the Heat (10). His high for points? Came against the Heat (23). Field goals made and attempted and total rebounds? Those single-game highs all came against the Heat, in different games.

"Those feelings Zo and L.J. have for each other are deep," said Miami guard Terry Porter. "I don't know whatever they have between them, but I do know it's very, very deep."

It's a combination of things, mostly born of professional jealousy formed while they were Charlotte teammates, a professional jealousy not unlike the one Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant have now with the Los Angeles Lakers -- only 10 times stronger. Johnson was the No. 1 pick and Rookie of the Year and had those Grandmama commercials. A year later, Mourning came and made the Hornets his.

Their personalities clashed immediately -- Johnson's open and loud, Mourning's closed. …

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