The Utah Jazz cleaned out their lockers Wednesday afternoon at the Salt Palace, amid the trappings of a high school yearbook session. There was talk of summer vacations; pizza boxes were scattered on the floor and pictures were to be signed.
The 1990-91 season is over and, by most indications, was a successful campaign. The Jazz won 54 games, the second-most in their history. They went to the season's final day before finishing second in the Midwest Division race. They eliminated a dangerous Phoenix team 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs, and played a physical, exhilarating, close five-game series with Portland before losing."Even though it's only the day after the season," said team owner Larry H. Miller, "I actually feel pretty good about the season. At the same time I feel like I always do when it's over, a kind of emptiness."
Players reported for a noon team meeting, where playoff shares were voted on. Then Coach Jerry Sloan had a private interview with each player before they left the Salt Palace.
Although still stinging from their season-ending loss to Portland on Tuesday, most were ready to declare it a good year. "From my experience, in a week or so, I'll feel a lot of good things about the year," said John Stockton. "At first it's hard to find a lot of good, but a week from now I'll say, yeah, it was a good year."
For Jeff Malone, a first-year Jazzman, it was a new experience. After seven years in Washington, he got a taste of playing with a contender. "The year was definitely fine," said Malone. "We had good coaches and this is a good organization. The fans are great and I got a chance to be with a team that won more than 50 games and go to the second round. Those are firsts for me."
Malone plans to wed Alicia Hill of Geneva, Switzerland, on Aug. 31 in Jamaica. He said his summer plans also include staying in his hometown of Macon, Ga., and visiting his parents. "I'll stay in shape, jog and work on my tennis game," he said.
Whether Malone returns to Utah for next year is another matter. He becomes a restricted free agent July 1, while teammate Mike Brown will be an unrestricted free agent on the same date.
Brown, who had a strong playoff showing, said he will stay in Salt Lake, then visit relatives in New Jersey and his in-laws in Italy. Darrell Griffith is returning, as usual, to his hometown of Louisville.
Miller, who was upset over the Jazz's first-round exits the last two years, said the Jazz played "an outstanding series against Phoenix.
"We played Portland tough," he added. "I don't allow myself too many indulgences in wishful thinking, but I was pleased with the effort in three of our losses (against Portland). They were outstanding games and we answered the call time and time again."