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OutletPass
04-30-2003, 10:47 AM
Stockton to Malone for the last time?
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider

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Michael Jordan had an 82-game farewell tour, complete with a Mariah Carey serenade at the All-Star Game. David Robinson didn't go out to quite the fanfare, but he did have a postseason award named after him.

What does John Stockton, the 41-year-old all-time NBA assists leader get? Most likely a swift kick in the short shorts from the Kings and a return to obscurity. That's just the way he'd like it by the way.
If Jordan's career was about media hype and Robinson's about being the good guy steering the ship, Stockton's career was about anonymity.
He was the guy who looked like your accountant. No bling bling. Just a Members Only jacket, a George Will haircut and one of the nastiest games the NBA has ever seen.

There is no need for parades, video montages or sappy serenades. He'll leave the court Wednesday, win or lose, the same way he always does. With scuffed up knees, a black eye and three bodies strewn around the court. "I've taken that approach for a long time, to try to play it like it's your last one," Stockton said.

No one's for sure whether Stockton, 41, is going to retire this summer, including Stockton. "Nobody can help you with it," said Stockton. "Nobody can nudge you in that direction. It's your call. So far, I have not made any trips to the mountain to try and figure things out." We may be writing Stockton's eulogy too quickly. The annual prediction that the sky is falling has become tradition for Jazz fans. When did oach Jerry Sloan first hear that sort of talk? "Maybe 10 or 12 years ago," he said last last week.

The point is well taken. Stockton and Malone keep on going and going. There are now outward signs that they're ready to hang it up. Indeed, Malone has said repeatedly that he has two or three more good years left in him. Whether they're spent in Utah is a different story.
Stockton, however, seems weary. He misses his family. He's grown tired of the traveling. By every objective standard, it's time for him to go. But there's one little thing that stands in his way.

"They like to play basketball," Sloan said. "That's the thing that's extraordinary to me. They still like to play basketball." Stockton's promised the Jazz that he'll make his decision quickly. They need him to. The Jazz are looking at roughly $16 million in cap space this summer if Stockton and Malone don't suit up for them next season.

The Jazz already have their eye on Andre Miller, the Clippers' restricted free agent, to fill Stockton's shoes. They know they can't wait forever to convince him to come to Utah. Dealing with Malone will be trickier. He's given indications, as he always does in a contract year, that it may be time for him to leave Utah to play for a contender. Lakers coach Phil Jackson appeared to openly campaign for Malone to join the Lakers on Monday, drawing a strong response from Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor.

"There's some game left in Karl and I think that my owner, in talking about personnel, has mentioned it to me," Jackson told the reporters. "Do I think that Karl would be a good make for the Lakers? Obviously any player that is that good will find a way to play for a basketball club." O'Connor claimed that the comments were tampering.

"Karl's under contract," O'Connor told the Deseret News, "and for another coach, or another team, to publicly discuss it is against the rules. Period. It's against the rules. There's no ifs, ands or buts. It's called tampering, and it's against the rules." Expect the Jazz to have some sort of standoff with Malone this summer. They want him back at the right price. But the team isn't willing to mortgage the future over him. The Jazz know that very few teams have the cash to pay Malone more than the mid-level exception. Under almost every conceivable scenario, even an offer of eight million a year would be almost four million more than anyone else could offer.

If Malone does choose to leave, the franchise will save the money, wait for Greg Ostertag to come off the books next summer (2004) and then make a run at someone like Elton Brand (who will hit unrestricted free agency next summer). Connor and Malone both seem to understand that that sands are shifting, even if they can't pinpoint exactly where.

"This may sound like I'm flapping my gums," O'Connor said, "but they've been here so long and had such success and mean so much to this organization, I honestly want them to do what they want to do. If it's pull the plug this year, great. If it's going on and playing for another year or two, great. If it's wanting to go somewhere else, then I think we have to sit down and give them the opportunity to do what's good for them." Malone thinks the warmth that fans have shown him made the whole thing worth it.

"It does make you feel good," Malone said. "It's kind of refreshing to see that. Hopefully, the fans appreciate what we tried to do for this organization and for them. Those people in the $20 seats are just as important as those people in the $300 seats. I appreciate them as fans, and I appreciate the opportunity they've given me here."

aexchange
04-30-2003, 10:50 AM
scary thought on having the mailman play in LA. the triangle runs the best with a PF who can pass and hit the open jumper.

sound like anyone we know?

Ummmmm Ok
04-30-2003, 10:51 AM
Rodman? i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif
Horace Grant? i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

jayC
04-30-2003, 01:33 PM
That just can't happen. Talk about a if you can't beatem joinem policy. LA only needs a slight upgrade from samaki walker and mark madsen malone fits the bill.