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Ummmmm Ok
05-02-2003, 10:30 AM
On the NBA: If Malone leaves Utah, he'll stay in the West

By Scott Howard-Cooper -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Friday, May 2, 2003

http://www.sacbee.com/ips_rich_content/32-karl.jpg

Farewell ... and see you soon?

The maze of possibilities that serpentined through Arco Arena late Wednesday came with the greatest twist of all: Sacramento thinking it was giving John Stockton and Karl Malone a classy send-off in the final moments of the Utah Jazz season but actually, and unknowingly, beginning the push to deliver Malone on a full-time basis. Your turn, Kings.

Although Texas and Southern California have been the most-publicized potential landing spots when Malone becomes a free agent July 1, Sacramento is "definitely" a strong candidate, according to one person with knowledge of his thinking. It's also known the Kings have been high on Malone's list all season, rather than a late consideration to leverage the three other Western Conference contenders, and that the NBA's second-leading all-time scorer would come even as a power-forward backup to Chris Webber.

Malone will not comment, except with the general disclaimer that "I feel that I can play anywhere that guys compete." Sources, however, describe him as someone who'll decide soon about whether to leave the Jazz but will take until mid-June to decide his order of preference between the Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs. The team that wins this season's championship will drop down on his list for July 1.

That Malone doesn't want a destination where it's perceived he's jumping on coat tails says everything about the emotional nature of his decision and his personality. But Malone has four serious candidates and the home-state New Orleans Hornets as a longshot if he leaves Utah, and, it has been learned after conversations with current and former members of the Jazz organization and people close to Malone, that the Lakers are the current No. 1 pick.

"Without a doubt," one source said of Los Angeles being at the top of the list, pending the outcome of the playoffs.

Malone has said he would be willing to take a massive paycut from his 2002-03 salary of $19.25 million and accept the mid-level exception of approximately $4.5 million next season to sign with a contender, as would be required to join Los Angeles, Sacramento or Dallas, all over the salary cap. San Antonio will be able to outspend any of them but might use its envious financial flexibility to sign a point guard (Jason Kidd) or a replacement for retiring center David Robinson, leaving the Spurs the same exception to offer Malone.

A two-year contract, with the second season worth approximately $5 million, will take Malone to age 41 and likely be the last of his career. The lure to stay longer would come if Malone was still chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring record of 38,387 points, which would require 98 more games at this season's rate of 20.6 points per outing, an especially tough pace to maintain if he goes to the Kings or Spurs as a backup or the Lakers as the third option on offense.

The plan is for Malone's wife, Kay, to do most of the legwork in the free-agent process, traveling to the select cities to consider everything from housing to schools for their four kids, ages 4 to 11. Eighteen seasons have given the Mailman more than enough time to form his own impressions, and the financial negotiations will be simple since most teams will be locked into the same offer. The opinion of his wife and kids, Malone said, will account for 75 percent of his decision, although another potentially strong factor was eliminated when his 21-year-old daughter, Cheryl Ford, was a first-round WNBA pick by the Detroit Shock, rather than the Monarchs, Los Angeles Sparks or San Antonio Silver Stars.

It's still not certain if Malone will leave the Jazz, with the idea of spending an entire career with the same franchise having held a long-standing appeal, and because he loves Utah. Much depends on whether Jerry Sloan, for whom Malone has great trust and appreciation, returns as coach, and Sloan said he has no timetable on his decision.

Much of what Malone likes about Salt Lake City are the same features that draw him to Sacramento -- a smaller market for the country kid from Summerfield, La., who plans to someday live on his Arkansas ranch. He also likes the outdoors, wide spaces to ride his motorcycles and fans as passionate and supportive as the Jazz had during its years among the elite. The Kings themselves have followed the Utah model of a stable franchise, with consistency in the front office, coaching staff and roster.

It's not an easy call for the Kings, though. It's impossible to overstate how much some roster decisions will depend on the level of this season's playoff success, and the issue beyond that is whether Keon Clark will opt out of his contract and become a free agent. If Clark leaves, the Kings will lose an athletic inside presence and a candidate to eventually replace Vlade Divac at center but get a shot at Malone, who could have a greater immediate impact. He would be an ideal fit as one of the best passing power forwards and a scoring threat from the low post or perimeter. His strength also will allow him to defend most centers.

And if Clark doesn't opt out? The Kings could look for an offseason trade, but, based on their current roster, it's tough to imagine investing almost $10 million in Malone when they already have Webber, Divac, Clark and Scot Pollard at power forward and center. But it's even tougher to imagine them not pushing for Malone with the awareness he could sign with L.A. and answer the Lakers' one consistent need, a power forward. The Maloofs' choice might be to take on another contract, the last thing the ownership group wants, as a defensive move rather than see him sign with You Know Who.

The Lakers have long held a special attraction to Malone. The only other time he gave serious thought to leaving the Jazz was to push for a trade to Los Angeles during the 1998-99 lockout season, even if it never came close to happening beyond his imagination. And while it would be the most dramatic shift of surroundings, Kay has already signed off on living there, making it, beyond anything, the Lakers' turn.

MavsFanFinley
05-02-2003, 10:39 AM
I'll be very ill if he goes to Sacramento.

I could handle it if he went to LA or SA, but I wouldn't be able to take him going to Sacramento.

Drbio
05-02-2003, 05:08 PM
<< That Malone doesn't want a destination where it's perceived he's jumping on coat tails says everything about the emotional nature of his decision and his personality. >>



This tells me that Dallas has a shot at him. He would contribute to the low game for sure here. He might not be as much of a contributor at other teams.

Rhylan
05-02-2003, 05:59 PM
We had the coattail discussion at work today. Seems to me that rules the Lakers completely out. Also seems like it might rule out the Kings even if they don't win it all this year. Whoever wins this year would likely not be where Karl ends up.

Fidel
05-02-2003, 08:09 PM
It seems like he wants the full MLE. Dont know if hes worth it. Id pass and rather build for the future with young talent.

Drbio
05-02-2003, 09:34 PM
<< It seems like he wants the full MLE. Dont know if hes worth it. Id pass and rather build for the future with young talent. >>



Not sure I would give him the MLE either, but the Mavs are a butt hair away from being a champion and Karl Malone just might be that butt hair.

nowitzki_prophecy
05-03-2003, 01:06 PM
why are you even talking about this?this is just another ploy to squeeze the Jazz owner out of more money,since im sure he would'nt want to give too much to a 40 year old.