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One-legged Stockton is all the Jazz need

SHARE One-legged Stockton is all the Jazz need

ORLANDO, Fla. — Fear of a potential career-ending injury flashed for some when John Stockton fell to the floor, writhing in evident pain.

What was it? A knee? An ankle? What?

As it turned out, Stockton sprained his left ankle bringing the ball upcourt against Darrell Armstrong early in the fourth quarter Wednesday night. He said he turned the ankle on its edge and rolled it, but he did later return.

For the Jazz, that brought a huge sigh of relief.

After all, as teammate Karl Malone said of the NBA's all-time steals and assists leader, "a one-legged Stockton is still pretty d----- good."

Utah trailed Orlando 90-88 at the time he went down, and by the time Stockton returned — after a brief visit to the Jazz locker room — the Jazz were down 100-92.

So, oh, were they ever glad to see him step back on the floor.

"I'm thinking, in the back of my mind, 'Hopefully he comes back,' " Malone said.

Coach Jerry Sloan credited the fact he did with sparking the Jazz's comeback win. Not that there was ever any doubt in his mind, Sloan suggested, as to whether or not Stockton would be back.

"John's a guy . . . he likes to play," Sloan said.

Stockton did not practice Thursday and is listed as "probable" with a "mild" ankle strain for Utah's game Friday at Indiana. Jazz trainer Gary Briggs said there was some swelling in the ankle but that the joint was "mainly sore."

OW: Malone was issued a technical foul for shoving Orlando center Andrew DeClerq, a call that made the Mailman none too happy.

"You hit a guy across the head (as DeClerq did)," Malone said, "and then the guy that gets hit and cuts his tongue, you give him a technical foul?"

Apparently so.

WHAT'S UP, DOC? Magic coach Doc Rivers wasn't really thrilled with receiving a tech of his own.

Rookie ref Ed Malloy made the call when Rivers exploded because DeClerq had just gotten a technical for staring down Malloy following a non-call.

"It was the worst technical foul I have ever seen in my entire life," Rivers said. "It was the young guy who was intimidated the entire night. He really was."

ROOKIE MISTAKE: Magic rookie Drew Gooden made the mistake of telling the Orlando Sentinel he was not intimidated by Malone, or anyone else in the NBA.

As fate would have it, Malone read the note. And Gooden? He scored eight points but was mostly a non-factor.

"In this business you just play," Malone said when asked about Gooden's quote, "and you let your game speak for itself."

MISC.: Jazz backup point Mark Jackson finished with three assists, leaving him eight shy of passing Magic Johnson for second on the NBA's all-time assists list . . . Malone's 22 free-throw attempts are an all-time Magic opponent high . . . Former Jazz backup point Jacque Vaughn started for Orlando but played only 15 minutes.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com