Jerry Sloan flies first-class now, but that's not the only change in the Jazz's travel plans. Sloan has requested several switches, all designed to keep the team home longer.
Considering the Jazz had by far the biggest spread in the NBA between home and road wins last season (33-14), anything's worth a try. Frank Layden took the other extreme, because he liked life on the road, figured adjusting to time changes was important and thought going from one city to another was less hassle than stopping at home.The all-time Layden trip was when the Jazz played in Sacramento on a Saturday, went to Boston on Sunday and finally played the Celtics on Wednesday. When the schedule allowed, he'd leave two days early on most eastern trips.
With the approval of veteran players, Sloan has made several changes. The Jazz went to Houston on game day last week and to Oakland Saturday, and will do the same on at least two other trips. League rules require a team to arrive the day before the game when possible, but the only enforcement is a substantial fine for missing a game.
"When we go in the day of a game, we seem to come out a lot fresher and overall have a better game," noted John Stockton. "I don't know how many times we've come out flat when we've stayed two or three days in a city."
That's why Sloan is also breaking up multiple-game trips. The Jazz will return from Oakland today, practice at home Monday morning and leave that evening for Tuesday's game at Portland. Later, they'll stop twice at home for a day on the March San Antonio-Seattle-Houston trip that only the NBA computer could devise.
"Anytime you're home more it's better," said Darrell Griffith. "You get tired of seeing those hotel rooms. If you can cut the number of days, it's great."
Says Sloan, "As a player, I always thought it was hard to keep your concentration on the road. We'll see if this works. If not, we'll go back to the other way."
***** TROUBLED TIME: The Curse on the Class of '86 continues. In the wake of Roy Tarpley's latest drug trouble comes the reminder that four of the top seven players in the 1986 draft have had drug problems. Len Bias died and Chris Washburn, William Bedford and Tarpley have all been suspended by the NBA.
Curiously, the big winner in that draft was the team with no coach or general manager. Scouts Barry Hecker, the Salt Lake resident, and Ed Gregory engineered trades and the selections of Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper and Mark Price, all big reasons the Cavaliers have the NBA's best record.
Not that the Cavs decided to keep Hecker or Gregory.
The Jazz's choice that year? Dell Curry (No. 15), who's had no off-court trouble but was traded one summer, unprotected in the expansion draft the next and now benched in Charlotte.
***** LOCAL GUYS: Pace Mannion surfaced again this week when he signed a 10-day contract with Detroit _ his fifth NBA team since he left the University of Utah in 1983. Miami took another ex-Ute, Kelvin Upshaw, out of the CBA.
Asked about having only 10 days to prove himself in the NBA, Upshaw said, "To me, that's not pressure. I'm not trying to be superman. Pressure is living in the inner city." He was probably talking about his hometown of Chicago, not Salt Lake. In his first game with the Heat, Upshaw had eight points in 21 minutes at Washington.
***** AT RANDOM: Jazz general manager David Checketts has received his copy of Bart Kofoed's grievance, so the process is under way. If the Jazz settle the case or win in arbitration, can they afford to bring back Bill Kreifeldt? The team's highly regarded public relations director was released Friday, because the department was said to be overstaffed. "(Checketts) has asked us to reduce and cut down a little bit," said vice president David Allred.
Do you think Karl Malone would donate, say, 3 percent of his salary to keep his No. 1 press agent? The irony: The last news conference Kreifeldt staged was to announce Thurl Bailey's signing a multi-million dollar contract . . .
With a franchise-record ninth straight road loss on the line, the Lakers play across town against the Clippers tonight. After Tuesday's loss at Sacramento, James Worthy said, "This has gone beyond embarrassing. It was embarrassing three weeks ago. Now it's ridiculous. Pitiful. We have no excuse, because we're a better team than this." . . . Randy Pfund, the Lakers' No. 2 assistant, turned down an offer to become Dick Versace's No. 1 assistant at Indiana. He should have taken the job at least long enough to enjoy beating Boston by 19 at the Garden . . .
Good news: Former Jazzman Scott Roth has signed a contract with San Antonio, guaranteed through next season . . . The latest on the Jazz arena? Checketts is making one presentation after another to task forces. "It's like I have to go around and convince everybody," he said. A trip like the Jazz's recent one to new buildings in Milwaukee, Charlotte and Miami would be very convincing.