With the NBA's salary cap going up on August 1, the Jazz will have to do some figuring to meet the league's minimum payroll. But don't expect the big-name players to come away with newer, bigger contracts than they already have.
According to general manager Tim Howells, the Jazz can to meet the salary requirements without reworking existing contracts. Their efforts will probably be concentrated on backup center Mike Brown and newly acquired guard Jeff Malone. Both are entering the final year of their contracts, and once they are signed to new contracts, Howells says, the Jazz will be within the guidelines."We don't anticipate any trouble making minimum," said Howells. "Typically we have redone a player's contract prior to his final year. It may not happen before the season, but we'd like to get it done before the season's over."
The cap doesn't need to be met until next spring, so the Jazz could work out the new contracts right away, or do it during the season.
Howells indicated the Jazz could look at free agents this summer, but there is only limited interest there. "There's not a lot of interest by us in the free agents. There's been some talk about (Denver's) Alex English, but he's probably the only person we've discussed; he's probably the only one of interest to us."
Or, he said, "If we're still under the cap, I don't think anything would preclude us from paying bonuses."
But as far as the veteran Jazz players such as John Stockton and Karl Malone, and others with long-term contracts go, "we have no plans to renegotiate their current contracts."
THOSE OLD FAMILIAR FACES: One well-known and a couple of fairly well-known players (at least to fans in Utah) will be in town this week for the Jazz's Rocky Mountain Revue summer league games.
Former Utah State guard Kevin Nixon is among the rookies invited to play with the Sacramento Kings' team this week. Nixon spent last year in the CBA, playing with the Topeka Sizzlers and the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Sacramento also has former Hawaii forward Cliff Beaubrun, who played for the Rainbows last year, averaging almost nine points a game. Phoenix's roster includes Ex-San Diego State center Mitch McMullen, who played for the Aztecs in 1989.
NOT IMPRESSED: Among the best collegiate players in the upcoming season will be Louisiana State center Shaquille O'Neal. And if confidence has anything to do with it, he should be even better when he joins the pro ranks.
According to one story circulating around the NBA, O'Neal attended a Houston Rockets practice session last year. After a few moments of watching Akeem and Company, O'Neal leaned over to President Ray Patterson and said, "Uh, excuse me, Sir, but when do the big guys come in?"
ADVANTAGE, SUNS: If you're a big believer in scheduling advantages, then you must also believe the Jazz will be at a disadvantage from the first tipoff next year.
The Phoenix Suns, who open the year against Utah on Nov. 2 in Japan, play their final exhibition game on Oct. 27 against Chicago. Meanwhile, the Jazz will be playing exhibition games through Oct. 29. That gives the Jazz two fewer days than Phoenix to get ready for the long plane trip and season opener. Plans right now are for the Jazz to wrap up their preseason slate on Oct. 29 in Providence, R.I., against the Celtics, then fly directly to Tokyo for the season opener.
WALTER WATCH: For those hoping to get a look at the Jazz's only draft pick, Walter Palmer, don't hold your breath. Palmer remains in New Hampshire, working out at Dartmouth gym, while holding out for a suitable contract. Odds are that things between Palmer and the Jazz won't be worked out in time for him to attend this week's summer league at East High.
Palmer is training with a coach named Robert Fox, who has worked with him for the past two years. Fox, a physical education coach in New York, has Palmer on a two-hour-a-day regimen of basketball playing and weight-lifting.
Said Scott Palmer, Walter's father, "My sense is that Walter wants very much to play as soon as possible. If he possibly could, he'd be out there sooner rather than later. There is no hesitation his part. There's just a perception that the Jazz people aren't quite ready how to deal with Walter's contract. Until that is sorted out, Walter, on advice of his agent (Eric Fleisher), is waiting . . . . "
On the contract terms: "I think the money part is less important than some assurances that that he can have the time to devlop. Time rather than money is his particular concern. He recognizes it will take some time to come along, and he doesn't want to be moved around." Contacted at his family's summer home in New Hampshire, Walter Palmer called his experience frustrating. "I had hoped to be able to work out there (in Utah) before or during camp so I could get started," he said.
Although Palmer said he "just wants to play basketball," he was advised not to come out to the camp by his agent. "The Jazz are very astute businessmen. I play basketball. I was a history major, so business is not my thing. So I have to find someone to help me, and that's the role an agent plays."
The rookie said, "It doesn't look like I'll get out there," for this week's summer league. "It's the most frustrating thing in the world for a player like me who needs to be there."