The key to NBA free agent Karl Malone's future is behind Door No. . . . 1? 2? 3? You pick.
Malone's agent, Dwight Manley, told the Associated Press on Friday that the ex-Jazz star is "leaving his options open" regarding retirement.
Saturday's Los Angeles Times, however, quoted Manley as saying, "He's not closing any doors, but he's going in a different direction that obviously is retirement-bound . . . At this time, he doesn't want to play basketball."
The Times also quoted Mitch Kupchak, general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, for whom Malone played last season: "We'll never close the door, going down the road," Kupchak said, "but it's our understanding that he does not intend to play anymore."
Yet there is an out.
"The door's ajar," Kupchak told the Times, "and who knows what might happen in the future."
Other teams are keeping their own doors open. According to Saturday's San Antonio Express-News, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told Malone he would clear a roster slot for him, even if Malone didn't want to join the team until January. But Malone, who isn't ready to start the season due to offseason knee surgery, reportedly has said that if he does play it would only be with the Lakers.
Jazz owner Larry H. Miller has commissioned a statue of Malone that will stand next to one of retired point guard John Stockton at the Delta Center, but there are no indications Utah is interested in re-signing the league's No. 2 all-time scorer.