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JAZZ HAVE A FEW PLAYERS MULLING DECERTIFICATION

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IF YOU'RE THINKING the decertification movement involves only big stars such as Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan and Alonzo Mourning, check again.

Included on the list of 33 players who participated in last week's news conference by the pro-decertification group were the Jazz's Felton Spencer and Jamie Watson. Also on the list was former Jazz guard Eric Murdock.While the NBA contends the rank and file players of the NBA don't want decertification, the presence of Spencer and Watson, as well as Juwan Howard, Brian Shaw and Glen Rice, shows that there is considerable interest among the mid-level players to do away with the union.

Spencer reportedly was there primarily on a "fact-finding" mission rather than to necessarily align himself with the decertification camp.

In an August 15 article in the Boston Globe, Antoine Carr, Bryon Russell and former Jazz player Blue Edwards were also listed among those who have requested decertification.

Karl Malone told the Globe he doesn't know which teammates favor decertification. "No. All I know is it's not Karl Malone, John Stockton or Jeff Hornacek," said Malone.

Meanwhile, the war of words continues. Philadelphia Daily News writer Phil Jasner quotes Toronto Raptors vice president Isiah Thomas thusly: "I'm disappointed and embarrassed at the way our players are acting," said Thomas.

Thomas can speak from experience. Now on the management side, he is a former president of the NBA Players' Association.

Continued Thomas, "Our union has always been a model among sports unions, in terms of solidarityand commitment. That doesn't mean we didn't negotiate hard. We'd get in a room, fight and argue, give and take, but when we walked out, we were united, we were together."

GRAIN OF SALT: Former University of Utah quarterback Scott Mitchell, now with the Detroit Lions has always been good with the fans. He's even-tempered, good with fans and generally easy to get along with.

Still, his experience with the Utes and now with Detroit and Miami in the NFL have taught him to be slightly wary of fan sentiment. "People love you or hate you, regardless," he said in a telephone interview last week. "This year I'll probably have a good year and I'll be the greatest thing since sliced bread. They'll all be saying `What a great move!' To me, everyone seems too `for the moment' on both criticism and praise. I've learned you have to focus more on what you want to accomplish than what everyone else wants."

GO EAST, YOUNG MAN: With the competition level rising every year, the NBA is gradually bringing in more and more talent from other places besides the United States.

The success of such players as Drazen Petrovic, Sarunas Marciulionis, Dino Radja and Toni Kukoc has opened the door for foreign players - particularly European players - to succeed in the best basketball league in the world.

The Jazz have joined with the rest of the NBA in taking a harder look at European players. General Manager Tim Howells recently told the Deseret News the club has increased its efforts to find a foreign player.

"My opinion is that scouting foreign players is becoming much more important. That's an area we have not really directly concentrated on that much in the past, but we will be in the future," said Howells.

Jazz Director of Basketball Operations Scott Layden was recently at a tournament in Greece, checking out the talent.

Apparently, the foreign invasion isn't going to end anytime soon. Continued Howells: "We think it's going to grow. We are seeing European players making tremendous strides in basketball skills. I would say in the next few years we'll probably see the occasions where some lottery picks are European."

ADD MITCHELL: In his second year with the Lions, Mitchell now has some welcome company. Rookie defensive end Luther Elliss also played at Utah, though he was never on the same Ute team with Mitchell.

Mitchell said they talk occasionally. Predictably, it's about how things are going with the Ute program. "I ask him how things are. I guess it's a lot different than when I was there," said Mitchell.

He added, "What's nice about Luther is that he brings in a youthful excitement to things. He plays hard on every down and gets excited about it. He's good with the fans, too. He gets excited, and it gets the veterans pumped up a little bit. You need that mix on your team."

PROVEN FORMULA: With the demise of the Southwest Conference, the WAC ended up picking up some of the remains. Rice, TCU and SMU will be in the new WAC, beginning in the fall of 1996.

In a recent special project in the Dallas Morning News, the demise of the Soutwest Conference was chronicled. It pointed out that, among other things, a good way to kill your conference is to get in trouble with the NCAA. One graphic showed that every school in the conference except Rice and Arkansas was hit by at least one NCAA probation during the 1980s.

The biggest hit was the "death penalty" levied in 1987 against SMU. As a result, the Mustangs dropped their program for the 1988 season.

QUOTEFILE: Karl Malone, quoted in the Boston Globe, on the decertification movement: "For 100 years, things have gone smoothly. Dr. Naismith is probably turning over in his grave."