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`Stockton Rules’ simply states: When you slow John, you stop Jazz

SHARE `Stockton Rules’ simply states: When you slow John, you stop Jazz

Great basketball minds from here to Tibet know that stopping the Utah Jazz is rather simple.

Slow down John Stockton, the NBA's all-time assists and steals leader, and you're on the way to defeating Utah.The major problem is that over the past 14 years no one has been able to execute a "stop Stockton" plan. That was until Game 3 of the NBA Finals, when Chicago's Ron Harper, with some help from his lithe, long and lanky friends, turned Stockton into a non-factor.

Never has a future Hall-of-Famer been shut down so effectively in a championship setting the way Stockton was in that record-shattering debacle.

"We are talking about the best executing team in the world," ESPN's Jack Ramsay said of the Jazz. "They led the league in field goal percentage at 49 percent and they shoot 30 percent. That's no accident. It's not because they had a bad shooting night. It's because they had difficulty getting the shots that they wanted."

Much like the Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s and early '90s who had their "Jordan Rules," the Bulls have their version of the "Stockton Rules."

Here they are:

Stockton Rule No. 1: Keep Stockton out of the middle. Force him to go baseline, which shrinks his passing lanes.

Stockton Rule No. 2: Fight through the pick on their pick-and-roll play.

"Try to hit him and hit him as hard as possible," Harper said. "How does that sound?" Well, not very nice, but go on.

"You want to hit him like he tries to do to everybody else," Harper continues. "That's what we try to do to him."

Stockton Rule No. 3: Send help in the form of Scottie Pippen to disrupt the flow of Utah's finely tuned precision plays.

"There are rules, but (Pippen) has a lot of freedom because he is so good," Bulls assistant coach Frank Hamblen said.

It seems the Jazz has a problem with Stockton Rule No. 3. Utah claims Pippen is often playing an illegal zone when he leaves the offensively challenged Greg Foster and Greg Ostertag.

"They can't complain about no illegal defenses with as many zones as they play," Harper said. "Believe me, they play more zones than anybody."

Stockton Rule No. 4: If he wants to pass the ball to Foster or Os-ter-tag, let that pass on through. Neither of those guys is going to kill you.

Stockton Rule No. 5: Have Harper, rather than Steve Kerr, defend Stockton as often as pos-sible.

If Bulls coach Phil Jackson wasn't off on one of his Zen trips in Game 1 when he had Kerr on Stockton, Chicago fans would be bringing their brooms out on Wednesday for Game 4.

While following the "Stockton Rules" and being the first defender in the swarming wave of Killer Bulls, Harper has to stay on his toes against the crafty 36-year-old veteran.

"He knows all of the little tricks," Harper said. "He gets away with tons of things that other guards don't. I just try to use my size on him.

"John has very strong hands. Everybody thinks he's just old and slow. The thing that I try to do is cut off his passing lanes. That's hard because he knows the game so very well. He knows what the guys on his basketball team can do well."

Harper, with his 6-foot-6 frame, creates a vision problem for the 6-1 Stockton. The defensive-stopper tag is not one that Harper has worn around his neck for most of his career. He came into the league as a high-flying dunkmaster out of Miami of Ohio in 1986. He starred over three-plus seasons for Cleveland before being shipped off to the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade for Danny Ferry.

Before joining the Bulls as a free agent in 1994, Harper averaged more than 18 points per game in seven different seasons. But if you tell Harper that he's a great defender, he'll ask you what took you so long to notice.