THE FIRST big impact of the Jeff Malone trade was evident in the Salt Palace Wednesday night: The crowd assembled for the closed circuit telecast of the NBA Draft was the lowest in years.
Part of the reason may have been the starting time, from noon in years past to 5:30 p.m. No longer did the draft fit into a businessman's 3-hour lunch.But most of the reason was no doubt because of the lack of suspense now that the Jazz weren't picking until the No. 33 spot - well into the second round.
This situation was brought about by the Jazz's trading for Malone two days previous. They gave Sacramento Eric Leckner, Bobby Hansen and their No. 23 pick in exchange for Malone and the King's No. 33 pick.
No. 33 picks tend to last in the NBA about as long as knees without anterior cruciate ligaments.
In the '80s, for instance, of 10 players selected at No. 33, only one - Kevin Duckworth of Eastern Illinois - has become a player of impact in the NBA.
Still, about 3,000 diehard fans showed up in the Salt Palace for the big show, lured by free hot dogs and drinks, a pick-the-draft contest, free admission, and huge-screen TV coverage - your basic late-June basketball fix.
This being an acknowledged shallow draft - "everybody in this draft is a project," said Jazz director of player personnel Scott Layden - there wasn't a lot of emotion directed at any of the picks. The only real suspense was wondering when, or if, Dwayne Schintzius, the 7-foot-1, 293-pound problem-child who defected from the University of Florida midway through the season and got his hair cut by roto-rooter, would be selected.
The line on Schintzius is "Great talent . . . with an attitude."
He had over 1,500 points, 800 rebounds, 250 assists and 250 blocked shots in his college career, and, at that, only played in 12 games his senior season.
But he showed up at the pre-draft camps this spring grossly overweight, and he did nothing in the areas of diplomacy and p.r., explaining only that his scales at home said his weight was just fine.
The NBA flew Schintzius to New York along with other expected first-round draft choices for last night's telecast.
But the choices kept coming and going, and Schintzius, all 293 pounds and then some - he had more chins, as they say, than a Chinese phone book - kept looking around, wondering if his name would ever be called.
After 23 picks in the 27-pick first round, he was still sitting there, looking conspicuous.
It was becoming more of a possibility that he might still be around when the Jazz's turn came.
Would the franchise that once drafted a woman (Lucy Harris in 1977), and a Russian (Aleksander Belov in 1975), bite on the big man no one wanted?
Layden said if Schintzius lasted to No. 33, the Jazz probably wouldn't be interested.
As it turned out, they wouldn't even get the chance to be tempted. When the No. 24 selection was made, by the San Antonio Spurs, Shintzius was their man.
The cable TV analysts theorized that if the Spurs could tame Schintzius's erratic personality, they'd have a talent of sizeable proportion on their hands.
Nine picks later, the Jazz gave themselves a problem of directly opposite proportions.
The Jazz also drafted a 7-1 center. But besides their height, Walter Palmer of Dartmouth - the Jazz's anonymous pick - and Dwayne Schintzius of Florida have nothing in common.
Palmer is 220 pounds and barely has one chin. He didn't leave school early, and he has the kind of discipline that you have to have to play sports and still pull a full class load in the Ivy League.
Also, he has never been called the next Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell - or even the next Dwayne Schintzius.
He is a player waiting to happen.
"I think a lot of his game is ahead of him," is how Layden put it. "He's not as talented, but he plays a lot like Thurl Bailey."
"He's bright. Very bright," added Layden. "He's definitely going to add to the intelligence of this team."
So, the Jazz now have a 7-1 center with a brain and character who will be a terrific new member of the franchise if he improves his talent.
Whether that's better than the opposite could be an intriguing sideshow the next few years, as Walter Palmer and Dwayne Schintzius develop - one way, or the other.