The Jazz went back to New Orleans today. As they start the 10th season since Sam Battistone moved his struggling franchise to Utah, the Jazz will appear Monday night in the Superdome for the Pistol Pete Shootout, a Pete Maravich memorial game.
"It brings back a lot of memories," mused Battistone, now a Palm Springs resident who came to St. George for the Jazz's exhibition opener Thursday. "It's come a long way."Battistone's sale of the team to Larry Miller in June 1986 leaves two Original Jazzmen: Don Sparks, the only trainer the team's ever had; and David Fredman, who's held almost every front-office job and is now an assistant coach/scout. And New Orleans remembers the Jazz. Battistone laughs about how a local columnist ripped him again last spring for moving the team, while the Jazz were making their playoff run.
But what about Battistone? Two years after he sold his half of the franchise to Miller in response to a $25 million offer for the team from Minneapolis investors, NBA franchises are suddenly in the $70 million range. Does he wish he'd held out a year or two more?
"At the time we sold, it was an excellent price," he says, "and in the best of both worlds, you always want it to increase in value for the next guy. And only if you sell the franchise is that price there. Even though we talk about how valuable the franchise is today, the daily commitment of salaries and expenses continues to go up."
So while Miller tries to make ends meet, Battistone is just another businessman and Jazz fan. Counting the playoffs in Los Angeles, he attended almost as many games as ever last season. "There's no question that I miss it, because it's been such a part of me for so many years," he said. "The nice thing is, I still know most of the players and I'm able to stay close."
- - - TEAMMATE BASHING: Karl Malone, that shy, stoic Jazz forward, is finally loosening up. If the Mailman's fist-pumping celebrations last season were not enough, he's back with more moves. "We're getting tired of high-fives and that kind of stuff," he says.
Any high-five is now accompanied by a forearm bash, as the Oakland A's do. The bash started with Malone, Mike Brown and Thurl Bailey, but quickly spread. "Now, it's all the way down to the guards," marvels Malone.
Still reserved for the big boys is the double-forearm bash, following a power display. And a three-point play opportunity calls for a yet unnamed, fist-on-fist multiple exchange. "We've got more stuff, too," promises Malone. "I have no pressure this year - I'm just having fun."
Opponents may respond differently, but John Stockton knows all this comes with the Mailman package. "You can't change that, and you don't want to," he says. "He backs it up."