One needs only look at the figures to realize the remarkable rise of the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz not only sell out all their home games; they're a big draw on the road. As recently as 1987-88 Utah ranked 20th in road attendance. Now they're No. 5, and those ahead are no slouches. The only teams that out-draw the Jazz on the road are, in order, Chicago, Los Angeles (Lakers), Boston and Detroit.The Jazz's percentage of change in road attendance over the past two seasons is up 37.7 percent, the fastest rise in the league.
They're also a hit at the cash registers. According to Peterson's Pro Basketball magazine, Karl Malone is high among the individual stars in terms of merchandise bearing his name. In comparing three top merchandising companies, Malone ranks ninth in the league overall in popularity. Predictably, Michael Jordan is first on all three lists.
The second tier of stars include Jazzman John Stockton and the likes of Akeem Olajuwon, James Worthy, Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers and Chris Mullen.ONE-MAN WRECKING CREW: The magazine skips by Malone on one major area: the "MV-Three." The Petersen's magazine lists the three most valuable players in the league. To wit: Michael Jordan (no kidding?), Magic Johnson (ho-hum) and Charles Barkley ( . . . mmmmaybe . . . ).
The article best explains Barkley's selection with this comment from Hawks guard Glenn "Doc" Rivers: "Magic and Jordan are great, too, but they don't cause all the havoc Charles does."HIGH HOPES IN SACRAMENTO: It seems Sacramento Coach Dick Motta's favorite pastime is building winners from the ground up. He may be at it again.
During the off-season Motta traded Danny Ainge, Pervis Ellison, Greg Kite and Rodney McCray. In the process, the Kings got four draft choices this year. Overall, there are nine players on the Kings' roster who weren't there last year.
It should be noted that the last time there was such a wholesale turnover, the San Antonio Spurs went from a 21-61 record to 56-26.
Motta isn't mincing words about his hopes for at least a couple of his players. On rookies Lionel Simmons and Travis Mays, he says, "If he (Mays) and Simmons don't play on the All-Star team in three years, it's because of bad coaching."
Motta also says Antoine Carr, who is squat-lifting over 700 pounds, has "undergone the most amazing physical transformation I've ever seen."MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE FIRING RANGE: The scores read like a social security number: Phoenix 186, Denver 123; Houston 156, Denver 126; Atlanta 194, Denver 166; Boston 173, Denver 155.
First-year Denver coach Paul Westhead's plan to turn the Nuggets into the Loyola-Marymount of pro basketball hasn't done much more than backfire, so far.
People are scoring points, but most of them are by the other team.
However, Westhead says he's staying the course.
"This system won't change," he said. "There are people with great reservations about this. But the players are behind it. We haven't mastered it yet because it's difficult to do."
But most critics say the difficulty isn't now, but at the end of the season when the Nuggets have been running . . . and running . . . all (gasp!) . . . year (wheeze!) . . . long.RECORD-SETTERS: With the season upon them, several Utah Jazz players are approaching some career milestones.
John Stockton, who is the only NBA player ever to register over 1,000 assists more than once - he did it each of the last three seasons - could add to his mark by going for No. 4 this year.
Meanwhile, forward Thurl Bailey needs 1,423 points to reach the 10,000-point career mark. And Mark Eaton, the NBA's third-leading shot-blocker ever, needs 408 blocks to became the third player to get 3,000 for a career.
Though 408 blocks may be an optimistic projection (he had 201 last year), Eaton blocked 456 in 1985.