After all these years of trying to save money and keep player salaries reasonable, the Jazz have to play by different rules now. "Those days are over," says Jazz president-general manager David Checketts. "We have to step it up."
The reason is the NBA's minimum payroll, making the Jazz pay about $1 million more than they planned this season. Checketts' game plan calls for more up-front money for three players - John Stockton, Thurl Bailey and a mystery player - and year-end bonuses for two or three others.David Falk, Stockton's new attorney, could probably come up with a tidy way to take care of that $1 million. If anything's left, we suggest bonuses for the following individual or team achievements:
- Mark Eaton taking 10 shots in a game.
- Darrell Griffith passing up 10 shots in a week.
- Defeating the Lakers . . . or the Clippers.
- Holding Michael Jordan to fewer than 40 points . . . or no dunks.
- Malone going a month without missing a dunk.
- Kelly Tripucka, Rickey Green and Dell Curry beating any Jazz rival in the Midwest Division.
Well, paying Charlotte's players may not count toward the Jazz's minimum. But consider this idea that would count: A team recently offered Checketts a player in a trade, promising to pay 98 percent of the player's high salary. The Jazz would pay 2 percent, but officially be credited for all the money. "We've got to be crazy," Checketts says of the curious payroll rules.
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ADD STOCKTON: Talks with Falk will not start until after Checketts returns from the NBA Board of Governors meeting this week, leaving only a matter of days before training camp opens Oct.7. "I don't think we'll have a problem with anybodyholding out," says Checketts, planning to work on contracts during the exhibition season.
For now, consider these numbers: $1.2 million, $900,000, $900,000, $1 million, $1 million. Those are the annual salaries on the offer sheet that third-year point guard Mark Price signed with Washington and that Cleveland will match.
"Occasionally, from time to time, people do get dumb contracts", observed Atlanta president Stan Kasten, who's dealing with his own Doc Rivers.
"I don't think you can pay too much attention to it because the circumstances are so different," said Checketts. "Price is a free agent, and that creates a competitive bidding situation."
But then there's Isiah Thomas, who wants $2 million a year in a new deal withDetroit. So how much leverage do the Jazz really have with three years left on Stockton's bargain contract?