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Zo talks comeback and Wade being NBA MVP

After Alonzo Mourning showing up at Heat fan Sarah Wiseman's 102nd birthday party as a surprise Wednesday, the Heat center addressed a range of subjects from how his rehab is going as he tries to Alonzo_wade2_2 return from a serious knee injury to Dwyane Wade's Olympics performance and whether he identifies with Brett Favre.

I've pasted Mourning's full answers below, but for those of you interested in the quick hits here they are:

*He hopes to return by December, but left open the possibility it could end up being February. Bottom line: Mourning said if he can't get himself back in the shape he wants that Dec. 19, 2007 game against the Atlanta Hawks--when he suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee--was his last.

*He told Wade he expects the star to be a MVP candidate this season.

*He believes Pat Riley is not done re-shaping the Heat's roster this offseason.

Q: How is your rehab going?

A: It's coming along well. I'm trying to work my butt off to try to get myself healthy. It's not going as fast as I want it to, but the doctor said I'm ahead of schedule so i have to keep doing my part. Hopefully I can be out there sooner or later.

Q: Before you had tentatively talked about aiming for a December return. What's your timetable now?

A: I'm hoping for December, but no later than maybe February. I'm hoping for December barring (I) don't have any setbacks.

Q: Wade has looked impressive in the Olympics. What is your take?

A: D-Wade and I had a long conversation (before he left). He understands the responsibility that he has as a (Heat) team leader, as a franchise player and I think he has accepted that responsibility and he did that by taking a different approach this summer and taking care of his body. You can see that he's coming back stronger than ever. He has his explosiveness back. He's only 26, so he's got a lot of good basketball in him. I think his maturation process (has progressed) towards him educating himself and understanding what he has to do to take care of his body to endure the rigors of the season, and accept responsibility on both ends of the court. You can definitely see that.

I see him as a MVP candidate this year and I told him that a goal of his should be to on first team all-defense and there is no reason he shouldn't be there.

Q: The Heat has not added a center this offseason, so do you get the sense that they're expecting you to come back and contribute in some capacity?

A: I think Pat Riley is not done. I think he's going to continue to make the right decisions to build the team to a level that we can possibly contend at some point. At this particular stage I'm not going to look at this as a rush to get back healthy again.  I've got to take my time and based on my conversations I've had with Pat Riley, he told me, "Take your time. I want you to be 100 percent if you're able to come back and play again." I'm going to do that.

Q: You seem to have a similar passion for basketball that Brett Favre has for football. Can you relate to what Brett Favre went through and how will you know when it's time for you to walk away?

A: I think Brett can still play this game at a very high level. My body will let me know when it's time to stop. So many people feel that once you reach a certain age, then it's time for you to retire from a sport you love. I don't think it's true at all. I think age should not dictate that. I think you can play a particular sport as long as you take care of your body and have that hunger where you want to be part of an organization and contribute to the success of a team. You can't let other people dictate your future. If I would have listened to other people back in 2000 telling me I should stop playing basketball because of kidney disease, I wouldn't have won a world championship.

I listen to myself. I listen to my body, my mind, I follow my heart. I know time is going to dictate my future. Come December or January, if I'm not able to play the game at the level I expected to, then it's time for me to step away.

Q: Can you elaborate on where you are in your rehab?
A: I'm at a stage where I have to strengthen my quad muscle, because it was immobilized so long I lost a lot of strength. I have to strengthen those muscles to serve as a shock absorber to the tendons that were torn. Right now I'm going through that strengthening phase, but at the same time you have to monitor that level of activity because you don't want to overdo it and set yourself back.

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