Saturday, January 11, 2003

Catching up with Brian Grant

Grant active in the post, and the community

By Dave Goldstein
Enquirer contributor

TORONTO - The Brian Grant who plays for the Miami Heat looks quite different from the one who dominated at Xavier in the early 1990s, but very little about him has changed.

Sure, Grant now sports Bob Marley-esque dreadlocks and is adorned with tattoos, but he remains a tenacious rebounder, tough defender and fundamentally sound offensive player on the court, as well as a valued community member off it.

While talent abounds in the NBA, it's Grant's character that makes him unique.

Miami acquired Grant from Portland in 2000 as the missing piece on a championship contender.

Alonzo Mourning would dominate the paint, Eddie Jones would score from deep, and Grant would take care of the dirty work. At least, that was the plan.

But Mourning missed most of Grant's first year with a kidney disorder and probably will miss all of this season as well.

The Heat entered Friday with a 12-23 mark and have gone from championship contender to Eastern Conference also-ran. Grant has been forced to play center, but the Xavier alum isn't feeling sorry for himself or his team.

"It's only natural to think (of what could have been) because of the caliber of player that Zo is and what he brought to the table," Grant said.

"But at the same time, you've got to focus in on what you have. Maybe if we had the big fella in there we wouldn't be in the predicament that we're in. But then again, you never know."

One thing the Heat can bank on is a yeoman's effort from Grant every night.

Only 6 feet 9, Grant gives up height to opposing centers but still leads the Heat in shooting at 52 percent, while putting up 10 points and 11 rebounds a game. It is Grant's consistency Heat coach Pat Riley praises when evaluating Grant's importance to the Heat.

"Double-double every night," Riley said, when asked what Grant brings to the team. "Is that enough for you? It's enough for me. That's all I want from him is double-doubles."

Riley seems to be alone in his appreciation of Grant. After making the 1994-95 All-Rookie First Team, Grant hasn't made an all-star or all-defensive team.

His most important contributions, however, have not gone unnoticed. Grant won the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for 1998-99 for his community work. He raises money for the Ronald McDonald House of Miami and holds a free basketball camp in his hometown of Georgetown, Ohio

Grant eventually might be honored for his on-court prowess as well. But individual success won't satisfy him.

"I'm a competitor," Grant said. "If we come out of a game with our heads hanging, I don't take any solace in the fact that I got a double-double or had a really big rebounding night. It's about winning games."

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