After the Jazz's John Stockton became the third NBA player ever to reach 1,000 assists in a season Tuesday, teammate Karl Malone made a promise. If Malone is selected for the 1989 All-Star Game, he's taking his point guard.
"If he has the year's he's having now and doesn't make the All-Star team, I'm not going," Malone said.Malone, who scored his 5,000th career point in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers, has converted plenty of Stockton passes into baskets in his three seasons. "It's a relationship you would like to have with a point guard for many years to come," he noted. "It's a pleasure being on the court with him . . . the guy's awesome."
And keep those passes coming.
Kelly Tripucka made only one of his first nine shots, but he was on the shooting end of the landmark assist Stockton's sixth of the game, on his way to 20 early in the second quarter. "I had nothing to do with it it's all John," said Tripucka, who helped Isiah Thomas set the NBA season record in Detroit in 1984-85.
As the Clippers went downcourt after the 1,000th assist, Coach Gene Shue called timeout and the Jazz players surrounded Stockton. Later, Stockton said, "I was glad when it was over and we could worry about the game."
Stockton could break Thomas' record by averaging 18.3 assists in the remaining six games, which is not out of the question. With Tuesday's 20, he now has the top 10 assist games in the league this season three of 21, two of 20 and five of 19.
By playing in his 322nd consecutive game - he's missed none in four seasons - Stockton broke Ben Poquette's franchise record. With four steals, he also tied Rickey Green's team record with 220 for the season. He'd broken Green's assists record of 748 in the 61st game of the year. Green had disadvantage in that many of Adrian Dantley's baskets came after he made a move to the basket and did not result in assists, but he still marvels at Stockton. "That's a lot of assists," he said. "He's done more than I had expected."
The same goes for a lot of people. The word is now getting around about Stockton, who will easily win the assists title this season with a 13-plus average. Sports Illustrated is working on a profile story and newspapers around the country have played up Stockton, who tries to avoid the distractions. He declined a live local TV shot after the game in favor of his nightly ice treatment and says he'll wait to consider his season achievements until he's relaxing in the family tavern in Spokane this summer. That's him.