Now that Tom Chambers is off the Jazz's free-agent shopping list, they'll turn immediately to their second choice.
Uh, nobody is No. 2. Chambers was The Guy, and that was that."He was the one we felt could help us take that next step right now," said Jazz owner Larry Miller of Chambers, who signed a $9 million deal with Phoenix Tuesday. "If we were going to take a real serious jump, the way we showed we could in the second half of last season, the best way would be through a heavyweight free agent. There wasn't a second guy who we felt could make that kind of impact."
What now? The Jazz know they have to do something with 1987 first-round draft choice Jose Ortiz. They own his NBA rights forever, but he now represents their best chance to do something for next season - whether that's bringing in Ortiz himself or trading for another player.
For the moment, Marc Iavaroni is still No. 3 forward in the rotation with Karl Malone and Thurl Bailey. Miller pictured Malone-Bailey-Chambers as the ideal threesome, even using all three together frequently. "It was kind of fun to think about our forwards who run as well as they do, and him up there, too, because both he and Karl can play center," he noted.
Added Miller of Phoenix's move, "We were very surprised. I thought we'd been assured we would have a chance to talk to him."
MORE DRAFT: Chambers is not the only new Sun the Jazz wanted. The No. 1 name on their draft-day list was Central Michigan swingman Dan Majerle, who went three choices ahead of them. Majerle's hard-nosed style impressed the Jazz and caused Phoenix Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons to describe him as "a combination of Jerry Sloan and Dick Van Arsdale." Suns GM Jerry Colangelo even added John Havlicek to that mix.
But the Jazz had no chance at Majerle. If Phoenix had overlooked him, he would have gone to the L.A. Clippers via Seattle. According to Clipper chief scout Barry Hecker, the Salt Lake resident, the Clippers had instructed Seattle to take Majerle, Gary Grant or David Rivers to complete their major trade.
"These are talented people," Clipper Coach Gene Shue said of the Danny Manning-Charles Smith-Grant draft. "They're exactly the type of players we're looking for, based on our style of play. We want to run, play aggressive defense and play unselfish basketball."
Added Shue, in the L.A. Herald Examiner, "We don't want to copy the Lakers, but that wouldn't be a bad idea."
Said Laker GM Jerry West, "Quite honestly, their draft last year, I didn't think, was as good as could have been done, but this year, they've done the best thing I've ever seen them do."
ADD FREE AGENTS: Before acquiring Chambers, Colangelo had said of the rebuilding process in the NBA, "It's frustrating. The difference now is that free agency may give a team an opportunity to come back sooner."
If Washington loses Moses Malone - the latest is, the Lakers are interested - the Bullets will be looking at major rebuilding. One theory would be to avoid making immediate changes and try to build through the draft. That means losing. "Sooner or later, you've got to go through it because unless you get to the lottery, you're not going to get the kind of player you need," GM Bob Ferry told the Washington Post. "I know maybe it's the thing to do, but I also know the pain and suffering that comes from losing. From a personnel standpoint, it's exciting to rebuild. But from a human standpoint, it's a terrible thing to go through."
AT RANDOM: Sloan, the Jazz assistant, says he was impressed by Miami's building plan as an expansion team when he interviewed for the Heat coaching job. Figuring that Detroit's Ron Rothstein is the No. 1 choice, Sloan said, "I have no problem with that, I guess. I have a good job." Anyway, no coach has left a promising situation to join an expansion team. Charlotte's Dick Harter was an assistant for Indiana, which missed the playoffs. Orlando's Matt Guokas was out of work, fired last season by Philadelphia. And Minnesota's top candidate is Bob Weiss, fired last month by San Antonio . . . Miami may be the only NBA team Ortiz will play for, but the Heat skipped four decent Hispanic players - who, supposedly, would help sell tickets in that market. They could have taken Miami U.'s Tito Horford, Houston's Rolando Ferreira and LSU's Hernan Montenegro or Jose Vargas . . .
The latest NBA press release lists the Jazz as trading "Kelly Trilsucha" for Mike Brown. Kelly Tripucka is the only player with a brother working in the NBA office . . .
The early reports this week from the pre-Olympic tournament on the play of 7-foot-2 Yugoslavian center Stojko Vrankovic, signed to guaranteed money by the Celtics, were not favorable . . . Charlotte player personnel director Gene Littles, a former Jazz assistant, overlooked Rony Seikaly partly because he remembered the fans' treatment of Danny Schayes and didn't want a rookie center to struggle the same way. "We hope to get a quality big guy, but it could be two years down the road in the draft," he said . . . Colangelo, on what to do to reverse the losing cycle: "You have to be willing to take a gamble" . . . Having turned down Minnesota, assistant coach Scott Layden will take on more player-personnel duties for the Jazz.
QUOTABLE: Jerome Lane Quote of the Month No. 2, on Charles Barkley: "I don't like the way Barkley conducts himself. He talks too much. I don't like the things he says. I'll do things differently."