If you're wondering why the Utah Jazz have been so quiet this summer, well, that's the mode they're in these days. They're being the strong silent types. They're doing their best Clint Eastwood imitation. You want to talk?! Perhaps you should check with Sally Jesse-Raphael. Talking's her department.
While the Jazz have never been known for airing their dirty laundry in public, this summer they have taken things to the extreme. The front office has been as still as a Saturday afternoon at the rest home. Remember the good old days when owner Larry H. Miller was barnstorming the country, trying to get Dr. J in a Jazz uniform? Nowadays he'd be doing it in fake glasses and a moustache. He'd fly out of town in a hot air balloon under cover of darkness. He'd drive around in a black limousine with tinted windows.Lately, the Jazz are as secretive as La Cosa Nostra.
Of course, just because the management is quiet doesn't mean the players have to be. The past year has been one of the most clamorous in Jazz history - mainly due to the players. Last October Karl Malone opened the season by announcing he wasn't coming to training camp. Then he came anyway, though he threatened to leave daily. Luther Wright suffered through his highly publicized bout with manic depression. Tom Chambers threatened to retire - in the middle of the season.
There was a spate of publicity when Malone announced during All-Star Weekend that the Jazz needed to get him some help or he wanted out of Utah. Then came the Jeff Malone-Jeff Hornacek trade and the ensuing stories about whether there was bad blood between the Malones.
Soon to follow were the playoffs, in which Malone said on national television that he'd retire if the Jazz won the world championship. Later, Malone became upset when Miller stood near the end of the Jazz bench and urged Sloan to bench Malone during a playoff game.
The latest incidents came in the last two weeks. First, Malone went on air with KISN radio's Chris Tunis to announce he would be coming to "a training camp" but not necessarily the Jazz's. His complaint - isn't this where we left off? - was that the Jazz aren't doing enough to get him a world title.
Tuesday brought the widespread but apparently unfounded rumor that the Jazz were trying to trade Malone to New York.
And throughout the summer there has been nary a word from the Jazz.
After the confusion of last season, members of the Jazz management have apparently decided to take their mothers' advice and not say anything if they can't say something nice. They're as silent as Mt. Rushmore.
The impetus for the across-the-board quietude was probably the night last spring when Miller was caught on camera grappling with an obnoxious Nuggets' fan in the stands. The picture ran in papers across the nation. Though Miller was provoked in the incident, a picture is worth a thousand words and Miller didn't get in nearly enough words to explain what happened.
Normally a straightforward and colorful interview, Miller has since made a conscious - and unprecedented - effort to stay out of the public eye. He hasn't made a single public comment on Malone's latest complaint and hasn't returned media phone calls all summer. Even players and front office staffers have had little or no contact with him lately.
General Manager Tim Howells, also a normally candid interview, says only, "I don't really have anything to say" about Malone.
Even President Frank Layden, the most-quoted Jazz official of all time, is uncharacteristically dormant. "I have to do this. I have to say that commenting on this is not up to me," he said.
Which leaves Scott Layden, the team's director of basketball operations, whose mantra has always been "We don't really like to comment on those types of things."
So as training camp nears, the Jazz continue to say nothing, acting as though they're trying to overthrow a government, not win an NBA title.
Perhaps they're figuring that by keeping quiet, so will Malone. Maybe, as they claim, they're quietly doing their work and will talk when they get something done worth talking about.
In the meantime, don't expect anyone to tell you what they're thinking or planning. That's classified information. Don't call them. They'll call you.