After signing Karl Malone, Thurl Bailey and - he's hoping - John Stockton to new contracts this season, general manager David Checketts will have to decide this summer about the first unrestricted free agent in Jazz history.
After the NBA playoffs, Marc Iavaroni will be free to sign with any team, with the Jazz receiving no compensation, which makes his recent jump in playing time more meaningful. "It's nice to be in circulation, certainly," Iavaroni said. "No one wants to be at the end of the bench at the end of their career."Iavaroni, who will be 33 in September, becomes unrestricted because he's played at least five years (seven) and has completed at least two contracts. The Jazz offered a contract extension to Iavaroni last summer, but attorney David Falk saw what was happening in the new free agency market - like Kurt Rambis' four-year, $2.4 million deal with Charlotte - and advised Iavaroni to wait and take his chances.
That strategy looked risky in November, when Jose Ortiz was starting for the Jazz and Iavaroni played only 22 minutes in a six-game stretch. In 12 January games, though, Iavaroni has averaged 18.2 minutes. Coach Jerry Sloan has used him at two positions in a regular rotation with Karl Malone and Thurl Bailey instead of keeping him on the bench after the first few minutes of each half.
"He's a real professional, in the way he handles himself," says Sloan. "That's why he's been in the league a long time. I have a lot of respect for people who do that."
Even while they'll have Malone and Bailey for at least five more seasons, the Jazz will need a third forward - Ortiz, Iavaroni or someone else. Checketts is undecided about his summer plans for Iavaroni, although the name comes up in talks with Falk about Stockton, and Checketts says, "I know how I felt at the end of last season - I really like him. He's done everything we've asked."
As for his future, Iavaroni says, "I try not to look too far ahead. That's one of my formulas for success."
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz's search for a 12th player is on hold, because they play seven games in 10 days, leaving little practice time for the new player to learn the system. "We'd waste seven days of a 10-day contract, because we couldn't put the guy in a game," said Scott Layden, the Jazz player personnel director.
Besides, Bobby Hansen's target date to return is Feb. 14, after the All-Star break. Hansen expects clearance to start scrimmaging Thursday . . .
As the Jazz meet Dallas in Reunion Arena Tuesday night, here's what Hansen's - and Bart Kofoed's absence - has meant to Jim Farmer. After appearing in 30 games for a total of 157 minutes and scoring 61 points during a full rookie season with the Mavs, Farmer has played in 11 January games for 163 minutes and scored 63 points . . .
Kofoed signed Monday with the Rochester (Minn.) Flyers of the CBA . . . The Western Conference All-Star reserves will be announced Wednesday; John Stockton, Mark Eaton and Bailey are being given a decent shot . . . Was this predictable? Karl Malone has decided to wear Frank Layden's high school jersey number - No. 26 - in the All-Star Game.