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No more excuses: Jazz score center of their dreams

The Jazz waited through the years in New Orleans, hoping a miracle would happen. Hoping brilliance or blind luck would grant them a center who could score consistently from the low post. It never happened.

Nor did it happen after moving to Utah. They watched as Otto Moore, Rich Kelley, James Hardy, Jeff Wilkins, Danny Schayes, Mark Eaton and Felton Spencer came and went. They put up with Mike Brown, Larry Krystkowiak, Walter Palmer, Pat Cummings, Antoine Carr, Greg Foster and a half-dozen other forwards disguised as centers.This is how much they've coveted centers: They even let Alan Bannister sit on the injured list for a year, just because he was 7-foot-4. They drafted Luther Wright, who ended up making $5 million for playing just 92 minutes.

But Monday night, after 24 years of existence, the Jazz landed an inside-scoring center, dealing Chris Morris, Foster and a first-round draft choice to Orlando in exchange for 6-foot-11 Rony Seikaly.

That would be the same Rony Sei-ka-ly that averaged 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds last year.

The Jazz, of course, have long sought a center who could take some pressure off Karl Malone inside. But traditionally, Utah has been a place where scoring centers just didn't go. They always seemed to take a detour and end up in Portland or Los Angeles. Mark Eaton was an imposing defensive presence, but you didn't want to watch while he went up for a shot.

Greg Ostertag, Utah's starter until he was injured last week, has proven he isn't a scoring threat, either.

Karl Malone, who has taken care of the inside scoring for 13 years, won't know what to do now with all the company down low. He'll be bumping around like a teenager who suddenly has to share a bedroom with his little brother.

Now not only do the Jazz have a second inside scorer and a good defensive center, they have the worst low-post haircut combination in the NBA: Seikaly and Ostertag.

The acquisition of Seikaly in exchange for someone the Jazz have been trying to unload for years (Morris) and a small forward who was forced to masquerade as a center (Foster) seems a case of blatant robbery. But in its madness, the Magic did the same thing Philadelphia did when it traded Jeff Hornacek for Jeff Malone. In both cases the Eastern team got an inferior player but one whose contract expires at the end of the year, leaving room under the salary cap to acquire new talent.

For the Jazz, there are obvious questions. First, will Seikaly like it in Utah? The Jazz made a play for him in 1996, but it never materialized. An avowed beach-lover, Seikaly also likes big, diverse cities. Spending his free time shopping the Cottonwood Mall won't be his idea of culture. Born in Lebanon, he has played in Miami, San Francisco and Orlando. He'll find Salt Lake City as exotic as a tuna sandwich.

Whether that addition will upset the Jazz's chemistry remains to be seen.

Still, the Jazz can no longer blame their failure to win an NBA title on the lack of a scoring center. Nor will they be able to cite the use of forward-types playing center as the root of their weakness.

In acquiring Seikaly, the Jazz are positioned to make another serious run at the NBA championship. Now that they have the center they've wanted for 24 years, they have no excuses.