I thought Utah, going back to that team, I thought they had everything it took to win a championship. I always thought like Malone was the weakest link because he wasn’t a good foul shooter. Had he been a good foul shooter they would have beat Chicago. —Isiah Thomas, NBA Hall of Fame member
SALT LAKE CITY — It seems Isiah Thomas thinks Karl Malone should've used more elbow grease on free-throw shooting.
In an interview with NBA TV's "Open Court," the former Detroit Pistons star blamed The Mailman for costing the Utah Jazz opportunities to win some championships.
Thomas even called Malone the "weakest link" of those powerhouse Jazz squads.
"I thought Utah, going back to that team, I thought they had everything it took to win a championship," Thomas said in a video clip released ahead of the Oct. 8 show. “They had the system, the players, the toughness; they were defensive-minded and everything. I always thought like Malone was the weakest link because he wasn’t a good foul shooter. Had he been a good foul shooter they would have beat Chicago.”
A Hall of Famer considered one of the all-time greatest power forwards was the weakest link? Really?
“That’s a weak link, because at the end of a game when you are playing at that level, you come down to the last 30 seconds or the last minute of the game, if that guy can’t make fouls shots then he’s the weak link. He’s the guy that you are fouling, the guy you want to put on the line," Thomas said. "You’re not fouling (John) Stockton. You’re not putting him on the line. You’re not letting him take the shot. Everything is going to Malone. I thought Malone’s inability to hit free throws is what stopped them from winning a championship."
Did someone mention Thomas, Malone and something about an elbow?
In 1991, those three things collided — when Malone smacked a driving Thomas to the floor — and resulted in the Pistons point guard receiving a reported 40 stitches above his eye.
That point was brought up multiple times on Twitter as some fans accused Thomas of having two-decades-old sour grapes.
"He still smarting over that eyebrow?" Justin Baker (@jbakerslc) wrote. "Or the fact that he didn't make the Dream Team? Yeah."
"Bitter much?" Spencer Sorensen (@sorny11) wrote.
"Isiah still a little upset about Malone taking him out at the Delta Center?" asked Dana Rock (@rockmonster1232).
"Don't read too much into this," NBA writer Martin Knezevic (@NBAKnez) added. "All stems from Mailman's flagrant on Zeke, scarred to this day. IT is old school."
"Harsh but I see his point," @seanp33 wrote. "Hard to call one of the guys who got them in that position a weak link though."
Isi Hafoka came to Thomas' defense: "Thomas is absolutely right. Karl choked in the finals, he couldn't deliver."
At least not on Sundays, right Scottie Pippen?
Other fans had The Mailman's back. Sure, he missed a few key free throws in clutch situations, but not all of them.
"Clown comments," Tyler Barton (@Fake_Hustler) wrote. "Worst foul shooter? He's never heard of Ostertag?"
From @slcdunk's Twitter account: "Well in '98 playoffs, @TheDeliverer_32 (Malone) shot 78.8 ft% while taking over 8 a game. #IsiahThomasMath."
"He used the same fuzzy math skills running the CBA and Knicks. #kaput," Max Chang (@chang_max) retorted.33 comments on this story
This might be an awkward time to remind Jazz fans that Stockton selected Thomas to be his Hall of Fame presenter four years ago.
CAMP NOTES: Coach Tyrone Corbin has been impressed with the way his 20 campers have worked for the first few days of practice. "They’re trying and jockeying for who the first, second, third, fourth options will be there. It’s fun to see." ... Corbin on 33-year-old Richard Jefferson, the team's most senior player: "He has experience with being around this league. The guys respond to him. He’s an older statesman — a really old statesman for this group." ... Media aren't allowed to watch more than 15 minutes of practice, a period that is usually reserved for stretching. Corbin was asked to describe battles between big young men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter: "We have all kind of combinations we’re looking at," he said, dodging the question. "The entire big group is competitive, not just those two guys."