Instead of watching the satellite TV announcement of the NBA expansion-draft selections the other day, Scott Layden could have been making the choices for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Last summer, Layden turned down a chance to become Minnesota's director of player personnel.
"The one thing about being in an expansion situation right now is you probably can't catch your breath," noted Layden, who now has the same title with the Jazz, while still an assistant coach. "You're so busy and have so much going on. They're just going a hundred miles an hour. It would be some challenge."Billy McKinney, a former Jazz player, ended up taking the Minnesota job and made the expansion choices - obviously, with plenty of help from Coach Bill Musselman. Picks like Rick Mahorn and Steve Johnson give the Wolves a rugged look that Musselman likes.
Orlando and Minnesota already appear better than the teams Charlotte (20-62) and Miami (15-67) fielded last season, with more big-name players made available. Only one pre-arranged trade, between Minnesota and Milwaukee, kept some players off limits.
Just the same, Layden would much rather be with an established team like the Jazz. "Everything's exciting now," he says, "but after they lose their first five games, I'm sure reality will set in."
CARRYING ON: Jazz owner Larry Miller told top team officials Friday that he was still undecided about how to fill departing general manager David Checketts' vacancy, but he expects to make an announcement this week. One strong possibility is Frank Layden overseeing the operation, but having other people run the day-to-day business and basketball departments.
Checketts' leaving has not stalled contract talks with Mark Eaton, who would become a restricted free agent after next season. Team counsel Phil Marantz already had his working orders.
"It's business as usual for me," the Los Angeles-based Marantz said. "I did the bulk of the negotiating before, and I will continue to do so. I will report to Larry (Miller); I have in the past."
The Eaton talks are in the early stages, though. "Everybody's just trying to work it out," said Eaton's attorney, Keith Glass. "We'll just go one step at a time."
FARMER AID: Being taken in the expansion draft may hurt Jim Farmer more than losing Farmer will hurt the Jazz. Going to Orlando keeps Farmer close to his southern Alabama home, which is fine if the Magic really want him.
"I don't think he's in the plans for Orlando," said one player agent.
The sixth of seven guards drafted by the Magic, Farmer is a free agent. Only Orlando can talk to him until July 1, when he'll become an unrestricted free agent. That would allow Farmer to sign with any team - except the team that would otherwise probably be the most interested in him, the Jazz.
The expansion draft rules regarding free agents prevent Farmer from rejoining the Jazz for one year, unless he's signed and waived by another team.
AT RANDOM: The big sports agent firms just keep getting bigger in the NBA. In the last nine months, ProServ added clients John Stockton and Joe Dumars, the NBA Finals MVP and choice for the manadatory Disneyland advertisement. Bob Woolf has two of the projected top five choices in this month's draft. Woolf also now represents Mike Brown, meaning he has four of the 11 players on the Jazz roster, including Thurl Bailey, Darrell Griffith and Eric Leckner. Meanwhile, a Dallas-based agency lost both Karl Malone and Dumars in the last year . . . Former Jazzman Darryl Dawkins lasted all of eight minutes in Orlando's camp before storming out, saying a veteran shouldn't have to try out . . .
Michael Jordan's all-NBA first team included forwards Malone and James Worthy, center Patrick Ewing and guards Magic Johnson and Mitch Richmond . . . Miller's arena plans calling for a ground-breaking early next month are only a little behind schedule . . . Untouchables on the Lakers? "Just because you have names, that doesn't mean you can't explore and see what those names might bring," general manager Jerry West told the L.A. Times . . .
Of trading for a front-line center, West noted, "That just can't happen anymore. There are too many teams. What is the biggest premium in the league today? Centers. There aren't enough around, and that's why I think you've seen teams go to a different style of basketball. A lot more passing-game kind of things." . . . Phoenix is trying hard, unsuccessfully, to trade Armon Gilliam . . . Adrian Dantley says, "Now Rick Mahorn knows how I feel." . . . Training camps open in 110 days.