Everybody showed up for the Jazz's training camp today, but the fun with contract stuff is just starting.
By the end of the month, the Jazz could have new deals with Karl Malone, John Stockton, Thurl Bailey, Bobby Hansen and even others. Malone joined the list Thursday when he met with owner Larry Miller, president-general manager David Checketts and coach Frank Layden; the subject of another contract came up, which is news because Malone signed a six-year deal only last October.While both sides say Malone made no threats in the meeting, the Mailman clearly expects a response. "When they get ready to do something, I guess they'll do it," he said. "I can't put a gun to their head and say I want it right now."
Malone is representing himself, having fired former agent Bill Blakeley in July.
The Jazz already offered contract extensions to Stockton and Bailey, who have three and four years left on their deals, intending to add more years with major raises taking effect at the end of the current deals.
But recently, the Jazz's strategy changed when they learned they would have to meet the NBA's minimum payroll of $6.7 million this season, paying at least $1 million more than planned. That means Hansen, with two years left, will have his contract rewritten and Stockton and Bailey - and maybe Malone - will also receive more money up front. "All the agents are waiting to see what happens with Karl," noted Checketts. Stockton made $278,000 last season, Bailey $549,000 and Malone $800,000, and all were scheduled for modest increases this year, at least until the NBA ruling was outlined to the teams.
Says Checketts, "Everybody knows the Jazz have to spend more money."
Other NBA teams are also paying big dollars these days, even without trying to reach the minimum. The latest breakthrough for the players was the eight-year, $16 million deal Isiah Thomas signed with Detroit Thursday - and Stockton, not Thomas, was the all-NBA second-team point guard last season. Thomas' figures will obviously delight Stockton's new attorney, ProServ's David Falk, but Checketts has his response ready.
"Since when do we let what some other team does, which is stupid, affect what we do?" said Checketts.
"Different teams' situations are different," said Stockton, diplomatically.
Did Stockton consider a holdout like Adrian Dantley's in 1985, engineered by Falk? "Not at all," he said. "I just want to play."
So does Bailey, a Bob Woolf client. "All those things cross your mind," Bailey said of a possible holdout, "but I'm here. I'm not really concerned (about contract talks), because the season's here, and I want to play ball. That's why we have agents, to take the pressure off us."
Added Bailey, "All I have to do is go in and play. I think I've proven myself. I don't think I've gotten the publicity that other players around the league have, but but I work hard. I know my value, and I think the Jazz know it. Everybody wants to play as long as you can and make as much money as you can, that's no secret."
Layden, meanwhile, says none of the contract situations will trouble him, unless a player walks out of camp. "All I care is they're here," he said. The Jazz practiced this morning at Westminster College and later bused to St. George, where they will begin two-a-day sessions Saturday.