It has been some years since a member of the Utah Jazz was bestowed a doctorate degree, but now there's a another. First, there was Darrell Griffith, starring as "Dr. Dunkenstein." These days, the resident doctor is Jeff Malone, a.k.a. "The Doctor of Fadeology," or "Fade."
Malone's phenomenal shooting streaks are mostly the result of an unstoppable fadeaway jumper. "I've always liked to take that shot," Malone says.The nickname didn't come completely as a result of his devastating jump-shot. It was hung on him by teammates, who introduced Malone to a Salt Lake barber, who specializes in doing the "fade" haircut and advertises himself as an expert in "fadeology."
"Jeff goes there a lot to get his hair cut," explains Thurl Bailey. "So we borrowed the name from the barber and combined it with Jeff's shot, and came up with 'The Doctor of Fadeology.' "
The good Doctor, a rather modest sort, says only this: "Some of the guys just started calling me that."
CONTRACT TALK: Considering how well Malone is playing lately, when his contract expires next summer, he will have some serious bargaining power.
Malone is averaging 19 points this year, and in the last two weeks, averaged 27 a game. He has also been outstanding on defense against the Lakers' Magic Johnson, Golden State's Chris Mullin, Detroit's Joe Dumars and Portland's Clyde Drexler.
Should that continue, by the time the contract talks are over, Malone should be signed to a multi-year contract worth $1.5 to $2 million a year.
However, signing Malone may be a drawn-out matter. Jazz General Manager Tim Howells says they would have liked to have signed Malone - who becomes a restricted free agent next July 1 - to a new contract before this year began.
Says Howells, "Jeff likes it here. "But (as far as contract talks go), we're a long ways apart."
Meanwhile, backup center Mike Brown becomes an unrestricted free agent in July. Reports are that he, too, isn't close to signing a new contract with the team.
BUSH LEAGUES: And you thought playing in places like Yakima and Rapid City - CBA stops - was bad. Try this one on. Former NBA guard Darnell Valentine, who was signed by Cleveland as a free agent on Dec. 3, did not play last year in the NBA. But after working at a TV station in Portland and being cut by the Bucks last fall, he went the foreign route . . . very foreign. Valentine was discovered by the Cavs, playing in Tampico, Mexico.
This wasn't exactly one of those cushy $100,000-a-year, tax-free, condo-and-a-car Italian deals, either. Valentine played six games in 10 days before being rescued by the Cavs.
Said Valentine, "We traveled around in a donkey bus. I mean, it was like Fred Flintstone's car - no bottom."
Now that he's back in the big leagues, Valentine appears happy enough to shout "Eeeee-yabba-dabba-do!"
"I couldn't believe it and it makes me appreciate where I am now," Valentine said.
Last Wednesday night, Valetine led the team with 24 points.
SPEAKING OF BUSH LEAGUES . . . Some updates on a few players in the CBA with ties to Utah: Ex-Jazzman Jim Les is scoring 19.4 points a game for Omaha . . . Melvin Newbern, who was among the final cuts by the Jazz in camp, is averaging 21.3 points for Quad City . . . Ex-Ute Jerry Stroman is leading Yakima with a 20.4 average . . . and ex-Jazzman Bart Kofoed is averaging 11 points a game for La Crosse.
ONLY ON TV: Where else could a regular guy take Isiah Thomas to the rack and dunk?
In a recent episode of the NBC sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," actor Wil Smith could be found playing hoops with Thomas. And, according to Thomas, Smith's dunk over him was the real thing, on a real 10-foot hoop.
"It was legit. He went up there and dunked it," said Thomas. "He can, really. I was surprised myself. He learned to play a little bit. I mean, he ain't gonna be in the pros, but he's one of those guys who hangs out at the park."
Thanks to the magic of television, Thomas was unable to score with Smith guarding him. "Well, a couple of people said something like, 'He swatted your stuff,"' said Thomas with a laugh. "I told them it was just a bad camera angle. Fake camera."
TROUBLE AFOOT: If an agreement isn't reached quickly, former Jazz guard Eric Johnson is planning on filing a grievance against the Utah Jazz early this week for activating - and subsequently waiving - him before he had recovered from a foot injury.
Johnson's agent, Mitchell Frankel, said Johnson has been to a "prominent (Salt Lake) orthopedic surgeon" for another opinion, and that his foot is still far from being better.
"I was hoping in perhaps a week he would get better and it wouldn't be worth filing (a grievance)," said Frankel. "But this doesn't appear to be a short-term solution."
Frankel said the grievance, which is filed with the team, the NBA and the Players' Association, must be done before Dec. 24.
"Indications are that he will not be healthy for a substantial period," said Frankel. "And if an operation is needed, there is significant time missed."
Frankel said Johnson wants to play anywhere, including Europe or the CBA, and that he doesn't want to be sidelined with an injury. "It doesn't help his career not to play basketball."
This column contains some materials gathered from outside news sources.