With training camp coming up in just 2 1/2 weeks, the Jazz's summer vacation is virtually over. It was a short one for John Stockton and Karl Malone, who were still playing for the U.S. Olympic team in August.
But the Jazz superstars may get a few extra "comp days" for their effort. Jazz coaches are planning on talking to Malone and Stockton when camp begins and then assessing how much rest they need."I think what Jerry (Sloan) will end up doing is talk about it when they come to camp with the players," said assistant coach Phil Johnson. "We'll see how they feel at the time."
As owner Larry Miller pointed out earlier in the summer, the team's concerns are mainly about the players' mental approach. "Physically," added Johnson, "they'll be fine. But their mental preparation is something else. They're in it for the long haul. It's going to be a long season. But the main concern is mental fatigue and burnout."
The Mailman, who was in Louisiana last week, says he has already talked with Sloan. Among the training camp options are to practice only once during two-a-days or take a few days completely off. He admits his summer training schedule is off this year, since he was playing basketball into August.
"My workout schedule was definitely off all summer," said Malone. "You need to give your body a break. I haven't done a lot up to this point, but this week I'm going to start out with a nice long bike ride."
He added that he is "sort of mentally fatigued from the whole thing of basketball."
"I didn't think I'd be mentally tired, but I haven't had a chance to just get away," he said.
"Even though I'm more excited about this season than I ever have been, I want to go in with a clean and fresh mind. I don't want to rush back into it and be totally unexcited. I want to go back with dedication. So I'm really weighing my options."
Now that the Olympics are over and America once again rules all Basketballdom, NBA team officials and coaches are considering whether the Grand Experiment was worth it. Should Americans care enough to send the very best?
Jazz President Frank Layden has no qualms about doing so again. "I like having pros. This is just the beginning," Layden says. "Two or three Olympics from now we won't even think twice about it. We have got to keep sending out best team and our best players."
Layden adds that sending the NBA's best players to Barcelona wasn't overkill. "There isn't any such thing as overkill," he says. "You always compete to the best of your ability. You don't try to embarrass people, but I think you embarrass people more when you pull off."
He says by playing against America's best, other countries will improve. "It's like breaking the four-minute mile," he says. "Alan Bannister breaks it, and within a year everyone did. Europe will imitate and copy and they'll come back better."
Even the injury to Stockton fails to dampen Layden's enthusiasm for sending America's best to the Olympics. Layden says Stockton's broken leg could have occurred "in his own back yard."
"Terry Cummings (San Antonio) got injured playing somewhere else this summer," says Layden. "You can't put a glass case over the players during the summer. John got hurt and that's too bad. But life goes on. We can't worry about it. You don't want it to happen, but if you worried that much, you couldn't even have exhibition games."
AND THEN SOME: Layden on pro basketball players in the Olympics: "For a long time we've been paying lip service that the Olympians were amateurs. This removes all that baloney . . . Someday, sometime, somewhere, somebody is going to beat us, and that will be a big moment for the world. It might not happen for a hundred years, but it may be next time. Anything's possible." . . . Former NBA coach Doug Collins on the future of the Charlotte Hornets: "You look at the great teams in NBA history and they all have a nucleus of three great players. Chicago right now has Jordan, Pippen and Grant. The great Boston teams had Bird, Parish and McHale. And the great Laker teams had Magic, Kareem and Worthy. Charlotte is now in a position with Johnson, Gill and Mourning to become a really great team in the future."
This column includes materials gathered from outside sources.