Malone’s Talk of Leaving Upsets Faithful


A day after announcing he might not finish his career in Utah, forward Karl Malone, seeking a rich, new contract from the Jazz, was standing firm in the face of civic outrage that has shaken this normally rock-solid community.

Callers flooded talk shows to indicate they felt they’d given their hearts to the popular superstar of the Jazz only to be slapped in the face.

“Do I feel like the whole state of Utah is resting on my shoulders? Hell, yes,” Malone said. “Do I have the right to speak my mind? Yes, because when the horn blows, I’m going to give you all I got.”


On the Jim Rome radio show Wednesday, Malone said it was possible he’d finish his career in somewhere like Portland or Seattle, areas that are subjected to a heavy amount of rainfall. Malone is so fascinated by rain that he even has the sound of rainfall available to him at any time of the year on a CD, a CD that gets plenty of use.

“I sort of grew up here in Utah,” Malone said. “I went from being a boy to being a man here. People don’t envision me in another uniform. I don’t either, but it could happen. People didn’t envision Wayne Gretzky or Nolan Ryan in another uniform, either.”

Malone’s problems with Jazz management have nothing to do with rain, but everything to do with money and respect. Malone, who made $5.1 million this year and is under contract next season at $6 million, was angered when center Greg Ostertag, who has had little success in his three years with Utah, was given a six-year, $39-million contract beginning next season.

Malone, who will turn 35 this summer, now expects to be compensated at a level that reflects the difference between his accomplishments and those of Ostertag.


Laker center Shaquille O’Neal has averaged 25 points in the first two games of the Western Conference finals against the Jazz, leaving him below both his 1997-98 postseason average coming into this series of 29.9 and his regular-season mark of 28.3.

But Utah Coach Jerry Sloan, despite the fact that he has chosen to single cover O’Neal much of the time, still isn’t satisfied.


“I’m not sure we’re doing a very good job on him defensively,” Sloan said, “when you look at the things he has been able to accomplish. He had shots clearly underneath the basket where we had position--or you would have thought we had position--and we just let him in to dunk. Everybody is talking about defense. But I didn’t see anybody really go at him like we were going to try to stop him. We just had our arms up in the air and hollered, ‘I surrender.’

“If that’s good defense, I’ve got this thing all screwed up.”