CLEVELAND - WELCOME TO the glamorous world of the NBA, where we bring you the ultimate in December travel stops: Three days in Cleveland.
Who makes these schedules?On their way to the suburban Coliseum, where the Jazz lost 110-94 to the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night, they spent three fun-filled days in an airport hotel and soaked in Cleveland.
"Nowheresville," said Bart Kofoed, the Nebraska native. "Kearney (Neb.) is even a nicer town."
"Not to dog the town - I doubt we get a real good look at Cleveland - but it's been a nightmare," said John Stockton.
"Pretty much room service and practice," noted Bobby Hansen, who found time to read "Trump" and generally had no complaints about the stay, informing us that NBA players are not sightseers. "If you're out to see the Alamo or the capitol, you sort of get distracted from your real job."
Then again, he's from Des Moines, Iowa.
Curiously, this is already the third time the Jazz have had three days between road games this season. That can happen in November and December, when the NBA tries to avoid conflicts with Monday Night Football - except in Salt Lake City, which is another story.
The other long stays were in Seattle and northern California, during which Frank Layden first thought about quitting and later made up his mind for good.
Imagine what Cleveland would have done to him. Actually, Layden's entourage of old buddies from Buffalo would have joined the team, livening things considerably.
So here were the Jazz, coming off three losses in the middle of a six-game trip, flying into Cleveland Sunday afternoon and holing up. "You like to be where you can find theatres, restaurants . . . civilization," said Stockton. "We walk out of our hotel and we see freeway."
Mark Eaton agreed. "Where you stay has a lot to do with it. In Seattle, you're right downtown - there are things to do," he said.
No doubt, the Jazz miss former center Rich Kelley, famous for finding fun anywhere.
The consolation for the Jazz is they only have to visit Cleveland once a year. Consider the Houston Oilers - after losing to the Browns Sunday, they'll be back for a playoff game Saturday. "We have to come back to this rathole," receiver Ernest Givens said last weekend. "We didn't want to do that."
Eaton was a little more charitable to to the town in his daily radio report to Salt Lake. "I didn't rip on it too much this time; I usually do," he noted. "The big factor is, the weather was halfway decent."
That's another thing. Everybody's raving about the unseasonably warm temperatures, in the 50s, but it's still miserable - wind, clouds and rain.
None of that bothered rookie Eric Leckner, still wide-eyed about pro hoops. "I'm sure as time goes on in my career, these trips will become more and more monotonous, but it's been a lot of fun. The three days went by fast. I can sleep anywhere - I got a lot of rest."
Coach Jerry Sloan has spent the trip making no excuses for the Jazz's losing, saying road games should be no different than home games. Of course, every game is a road game for Sloan, who lives in a Salt Lake hotel.
Fortunately, the Jazz did find some distractions - excuse the expression, Bobby - in Cleveland. A few players found transportation to a nearby mall, and practices/work-outs were scheduled each day at a local health club, where pictures of famous Greater Cleveland athletes who train there cover the walls - including until-last-week Jazzman Scott Roth.
This is a tough business. The one player who would have loved three days in Cleveland is sent home for good the week before.
Don't get the wrong idea. The players and staff are getting by on their $50-a-day meal money. I'm observing my Cleveland tradition by bundling up for the two-block walk every day for lunch at New York Deli & Beverage on 150th Street.
No wonder all these towns run together.
The worst part of this year's visit to Cleveland was playing the Cavs, who are playing up a storm these days.
And be assured, the Jazz are spending no more time in Cleveland than mandatory. They woke up at 5:30 a.m. EST Wednesday to catch a flight to Baltimore for their game against Washington.