June 12, 1997 in Sports

Jazz Need Face Lift

Bob Verdi Chicago Tribune
 

Break up the Utah Jazz, too? By all means.

The Bulls are thinking seriously about rebuilding, and they’ve won four NBA titles. So why should the Jazz, with no championships ever, be outsmarted by the crafty Bulls? Tear up this Utah team before it becomes like the Boston Celtics.

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Karl Malone and John Stockton. The parallels are strikingly similar. Never mind that they’ve been the four best players in the Finals, by nine miles. They’re all too old.

And as a result, the games have been too good, with another one to come Friday night in Chicago. Fasten your false teeth.

In fact, with only about two dozen mediocre NBA teams, the Bulls and Jazz are so far ahead of the rest that next year’s Finals might feature Chicago and Utah again. Unless, of course, both teams rebuild to avoid becoming mediocre.

Obviously, the Jazz are asking for big trouble if they stay with two aging superstars. Malone is 33 and hooked on motorcycles, so he’s an accident waiting to happen. Stockton is 35 and he plays more golf than Jordan, only nobody knows about it. So, Stockton isn’t all there mentally.

Besides, Malone and Stockton haven’t won a thing. At least not yet, anyway. The trick for Utah is to trade them right after the Finals, before the Bulls get the jump on rebuilding and hoard all the best draft choices from teams that aren’t good enough to be in the Finals and worry about rebuilding.

What’s worse, Malone and Stockton are superior leaders, like Jordan and Pippen. Malone and Stockton show up at training camp in such perfect shape, they almost never miss a game. Can’t be many miles left in those legs.

What’s worse, Malone and Stockton are pals. Their families often dine together. How corny. Trade these two guys before it’s too late, before they eat themselves into submission.

Meanwhile, as long as the Utahs are going to start from scratch, they should probably let go of coach Jerry Sloan, too. He could take a year off or grab that Vancouver job before Phil Jackson does. Or they could both vanish. That really makes sense. Eliminate the two most successful coaches in the league so their teams can build for the future.

Sloan is a nice guy, but he just doesn’t get it. He’s all substance and not much style. Why, just the other day, he said that basketball isn’t the most important thing in the world, and everybody in the NBA knows that’s just not true.

As a result, the Jazz are deathly dull. All these guys do is play solid, entertaining games. Hardly any controversies, nobody with hair like a chia pet, and the fans are so devoted to the franchise, they don’t even have to be shamed into cheering by the coach.

One theory about why the Bulls struggled here involves altitude. Their hotel was in Park City, a resort area that peaks at about 10,000 feet above sea level. The Delta Center in the city is less than half that. The Bulls should have been sleeping low and playing high, or so the theory goes. Then there’s Dennis Rodman, who didn’t do much of either, sleep or play, at any altitude.

Anyway, this week was the biggest deal for Salt Lake since Herman Franks, one of the town’s wealthiest men, became manager of the Cubs a couple decades ago. Rodman knocked Salt Lake, but any city with a place called the Dead Goat Saloon one block from NBA headquarters gets my vote.

The next big deal here will be that silly snowball fight, the 2002 Winter Olympics. By then, if the Bulls and Jazz do it right and rebuild now even though they’re really good, they should really be good again.

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