The Utah Jazz, who often consider themselves a small-market franchise overlooked by the New York-headquartered NBA, are being swamped by recognition from the league office lately.
The latest is Karl Malone's NBA Player of the Month award for March, announced Tuesday. In the last two months, the Jazz have had Malone in the NBA All-Star Game, John Stockton and Bobby Hansen named the league's player of the week and Stockton the player of the month for February. Stockton was the first Jazzman ever to claim the monthly award."I've probably said 10 times this season that when you win, your statistics become more meaningful," Coach Frank Layden said.
The Jazz were 11-5 in March and are 21-10 since Feb. 1, counting Tuesday's loss to the Suns.
Malone averaged 27.9 points and 13.6 rebounds for the month, all the while insisting he was in a slump because he shot slightly less than 50 percent from the field. "That was probably the furthest thing from my mind," he said of the award. "I didn't think I was playing well, by my standards. I haven't been satisfied with my play."
Malone did have a few shaky offensive games during the month, including 6-of-19 shooting against New Jersey and 11-of-33 shooting against Milwaukee. Of course, there was the game at Denver when he was ejected in the first three minutes. But he also delivered some big numbers 38 points and 13 rebounds and 34 points and 20 rebounds in two games against San Antonio and 28 points and a career-high 21 boards against Phoenix. He scored 30 or more points in seven of the 16 games.
"He's worked hard," said Layden. "The All-Star Game was a turning point."
Malone entered Tuesday's game fifth in the NBA in scoring (26.8) and sixth in rebounding (11.8), joining Philadelphia's Charles Barkley as the only player in the top 10 of both departments.
Stockton, who averaged 17 points and 16 assists in March, almost won back-to-back awards himself. He was a nominee, along with Chicago's Michael Jordan and Charles Oakley, Dallas' Roy Tarpley, Denver's Michael Adams, Houston's Akeem Olajuwon, the Lakers' Byron Scott and Indiana's Wayman Tisdale.