Understandably, Jazz veterans Karl Malone, Thurl Bailey and John Stockton have a lot of their minds these days. While their attorneys - or in Malone's case, the Mailman himself - work on new, multi-million dollar contracts, they're playing the annual barnstorming exhibition schedule.
"I think we all block that out and go out and play," says Malone.No kidding. In the Jazz's 104-95 win over Indiana in the Dixie Center Thursday night, guess who was on the floor at the end, racking up stats and helping the Jazz pull away? Uh, huh. Malone, Bailey and Stockton, just like always.
Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned, Dantley-style holdouts? The Pacers probably wonder why these guys didn't stay home a while longer. For the Jazz Three, this was business as usual.
Malone: The Mailman scored 12 of his game-high 27 in the fourth quarter, playing 33 minutes for the night and unveiling a new selection of celebration moves. The standard feature is a combination high-five/Oakland A's forearm bash. "I wanted to come up with something that was fun and different," he said.
Bailey: Playing 39 minutes as a starter - if somebody else will come off the bench and score, he'll stay in the lineup - Bailey had 26 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots. The contract situation? "I can't worry about it now," he said. "I guess it's my love for the game. Sure, there's a love of money, too, but I try to separate the two. I can't let one affect the other."
Stockton: More of the same - 33 minutes, 8-of-10 shooting, 18 points, 11 assists, five steals. "When you're on the court, you forget about everything else," he said.
The game ended the Jazz's week-long stay in St. George, where the players worked hard to spend their $50 in daily meal money - that side trip to Mesquite, Nev., helped a little - and a late run at the ticket office produced an overflow crowd of 5,250. They saw the NBA's new look of three referees, obviously armed with instructions to watch for offensive fouls - six were called in the first quarter.
Forward Chuck Person led the Pacers with 22 points in an exhibition opener that, contrary to advertisements, both coaches genuinely tried to win. In the last five minutes, Pacer Coach Jack Ramsay had his starters on the floor and the Jazz's Frank Layden responded with the regulars and reserve center Mike Brown.
"I think it's important that your key guys have end-of-the-game experience," said Ramsay.
Layden used Billy Donovan (four points, four assists) exclusively as Stockton's backup for this game and also played shooting guard Marty Simmons in the fourth quarter before going back to the veterans. "I don't want to have one of our young players lose the game, after they did a lot of things well," reasoned Layden.
The Jazz also looked at rookies Jose Ortiz and Eric Leckner, who were a little shaky but certainly appared in the same category with Pacer center Rik Smits, the No. 2 pick in the latest NBA draft. The Jazz's Darrell Griffith, meanwhile, looked the same as ever with six points in 15 minutes of his first game since March 5. "Griff's play was above my expectations," said Layden.
After busing to Salt Lake today, the Jazz are scheduled to practice twice at Westminster College Saturday. Layden still isn't saying whether he'll cut the 18-man roster before the team leaves for a game in New Orleans Monday. The fact that five players - plus Bart Kofoed - stayed on the bench Thursday disguised his intentions, although guard Ron Rowan seems a likely early-exit candidate.