Imagine this: Six years after trading Danny Schayes, the Jazz find themselves hoping their latest first-round draft choice will someday become another Schayes.
That's a compliment to Schayes, who worked hard and improved so much that he was recently awarded a six-year, $8.7 million contract with Denver. But no doubt, Eric Leckner's struggles during the Jazz's eight-day summer program evoked thoughts of Schayes' unmemorable 11/2 seasons in Utah as a young center.The Jazz show every indication of being patient with Leckner, who did himself a huge favor by reporting before October. And the play of Mike Brown has eased the Jazz's concerns about the rookie. "It's going to give us the luxury of time with Leckner," says Jazz president-GM David Checketts.
Consider where the Jazz would be without Brown. Instead of staging the Mel Turpin Showcase at the Pro-Am Saturday night, they'd be either welcoming Turpin back, desperately shopping for a veteran center or planning to use Karl Malone to back up Eaton.
In this case, they were lucky.
Contrary to the Jazz's plans, they ended up with Brown instead of Jon Sundvold in the expansion draft/Kelly Tripucka trade - and, what's more, their young point guards appear talented enough to make up for not getting Sundvold.
Before the expansion draft, the Jazz tried to arrange a deal to obtain Dallas' Bill Wennington, Chicago's Brown or San Antonio's Sundvold. Charlotte agreed to draft and trade Sundvold - but Miami took Sundvold, ruining the plan. Eventually, Charlotte made Brown available - for Tripucka and about half of K.T.'s salary for three years.
In any case, the Jazz are delighted with the result. "It's terrific for us," said Checketts. "(Brown's) a great kid, he's playing hard and he's strong. He's going to help us."
AT RANDOM: Besides keeping Schayes, the Nuggets grabbed Phoenix's Walter Davis, another unrestricted free agent. "We just became a more well-rounded team. We just look to get better and better. With him scoring from outside, it makes Alex (English) better," said Schayes . . . Bobby Hansen started for the NBA All-Stars against the U.S. Olympic team Friday in Cleveland, but scored only one point. Mark Eaton will play for the NBA this week in Denver and Las Vegas . . . Karl Malone and John Stockton played Saturday night in Kermit Washington's annual benefit game in Portland. Malone skipped last weekend's NBA-Olympic team games in Charlotte because, he said, "The bottom line is, I'm putting things into my game that I don't want to show anyone. I'm working on some different stuff." Presumably, Malone can get by with his old game in the charity affairs . . . The CBA draft will be Wednesday and Thursday . . . Brown, on his first week with the Jazz: "It gives me a feel for the system, a feel for the team. Come to find out, the Jazz's system is the opposite of what we had in Chicago."