With all the Magic missing, the 1989 NBA All-Star Game became the Traveling Jazz Show in the Astrodome Sunday afternoon. CBS-TV showed Karl Malone's home movies and filmed Frank Layden's weekend adventures, John Stockton and Mark Eaton did their things, and the Mailman carried home the MVP trophy.
Not a bad day for a franchise hungry for attention.Malone's 28 points and Stockton's 17 assists helped the West to a 143-134 victory before a record crowd of 44,735 and a genuine national TV audience, while bringing the Jazz almost as much recognition since their seven-game playoff series with the Lakers last spring.
Dressed in his traditional Jazz golf shirt, owner Larry Miller found himself saying, "I know it sounds funny, but I came away feeling a lot prouder to wear it."
This was the Jazz, showing off their best stuff: Stockton handling the ball and passing crisply on his way to an All-Star record; Malone filling the lanes and going after offensive rebounds; and Eaton, for a few minutes amid the Akeem-Kareem celebration, working the boards.
Afterward, they were vintage Mailman and Stock. Malone brought his mother and stepfather to the interview area to rehash all the hometown legends; he finally reached the locker room more than an hour after the game. Stockton spent almost an hour sitting in front of his locker, still wearing his uniform trunks, offering the usual Stock quotes to waves of reporters.
"We had a great group of guys on the ball and everybody shared the ball, which was unusual," he said.
With the help of 27 points from Seattle's Dale Ellis, Malone, Stockton and the West rolled to a 28-point halftime lead and stayed in command in the fourth quarter. Just when the East was threatening, those three delivered. After Mark Jackson's two free throws cut the West lead to 123-116 with 5:56 left, Ellis followed in a shot for a three-point play, Malone hit a 20-footer off a Stockton pass and Stockton's two steals led to dunks for Ellis and Malone. End of threat, and, maybe, start of the new NBA.
"Stockton, Ellis and Malone are showing you there's a changing of the guard in the league," said Laker Coach Pat Riley. "The young stars are really making their impact."
This was the first All-Star Game of the '80s with both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson missing, because of injuries. "We aren't going to lose any sleep over the fact they aren't here," the West's Tom Chambers had said, meaning there was plenty of talent left. Magic's old buddy, Isiah Thomas, disagreed after the game."We definitely missed the Magic show," he said.
Thomas tried to supply the missing magic himself, with trick plays like a bounce pass that bounced 11 feet, but the West's straightforward, Stockton-style approach paid off. "They were doing their fancy stuff, and were putting the ball in the basket," said the West's Tom Chambers.
As soon as he learned Magic would miss the game, Riley turned to his scouting report and installed three Jazz plays for the West. Not much strategy was needed, though, with Stockton leading the fast break and finding Malone and anybody else in scoring position. Even after Saturday's informal practice, Stockton knew he was in for a point-guard's dream. "There were guys everywhere," he said. "I've never seen anything like it. You can throw it anywhere and it's the right direction."
Well, almost anywhere. Misreading unfamiliar players' moves several times, Stockton came up with the first triple double in All-Star Game history - 11 points, 17 assists and 12 turnovers. More suitable for framing were his nine assists in the first 6:30 of the game, breaking Magic's record for assists in a quarter.> Leading 87-59, the West broke the previous record of 86 for points in a half. "I looked up, and all of a sudden we were getting blown out," said the East's Kevin McHale.> The East rallied in the second half behind Michael Jordan's 28 points and Thomas' 19 points and 14 assists. The crowd was more interested in hometown favorite Akeem Olajuwon, who had 12 points, but a special moment came when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finally hit a sky hook with 14 seconds left in his last All-Star appearance, but the day belonged to the Jazz. The NBA and CBS must have seen this coming. Friday, the network outfitted Malone with a video camera, having him shoot anything he wanted - an unsuspecting Jazz general manager David Checketts and his family, airline pilots and hotel security guards, among other subjects - for a pregame feature. Layden, wearing a Brooklyn jacket, hammed it up for a real CBS camera crew for a halftime piece. Saturday night, Layden and Malone joined in the annual stage show that featured comedian Jay Leno.
All of which made this the Jazz's weekend, even aside from Morganna kissing Hot Rod Hundley on All-Star Saturday. The Jazz are fifth in the Western Conference as they resume play against Denver Tuesday, but they're thinking big again. "I know it's not the same," Miller was saying, "but I think this gives us a taste of what it would be like to win a championship."