In the wake of The Sweep, the Jazz are looking for speed and scoring and wondering just what to make of their playoff struggles against Golden State. As owner Larry Miller observed, "Do we have the tools and didn't use them, or do we need to change tools?"
Miller, taking the playoff upset surprisingly well, stopped by the Salt Palace Thursday when the players divided playoff money and met individually with general manager David Checketts and the coaching staff."The whole thing is such an aberration, such a shock . . . it hasn't set in yet," allowed Miller. "I think it's going to be a long summer."
So what's ahead for the Jazz? Major changes? A whole new look?
"We're not going to panic," said Coach Jerry Sloan.
Besides not planning to sign veteran forward Marc Iavaroni, the Jazz will also lose one player in the expansion draft, leaving at least two projected openings on next season's roster.
The Jazz will probably change enough to match up better with teams like the Warriors, without looking exactly like them. Taking an obvious suggestion from Golden State, Checketts wants to find a quick, athletic small forward, besides looking at the off-guard position.
In fact, Checketts reported trying to sign former University of Utah forward Danny Vranes, a veteran NBA defensive specialist, in March when Jim Farmer was injured and the Jazz had a roster opening. Vranes was playing in Europe and unable to join them. "The reason was, if we get caught in a series with a small team, we're going to need a guy like that . . . we recognized we had a weakness there," Checketts had predicted.
Sure enough, the Jazz had all kinds of trouble stopping the Warriors' Chris Mullin; whether Vranes would have made any difference after playing in Greece this season is another question. Still, Checketts said of his personnel plans, "If we looked at anything, we probably would look at our forwards and centers. Maybe we need some speed on that front line."
Asked later about the off-guard situation, Checketts noted, "I'd say it's a priority to strengthen ourselves there."
The position is staffed by Bobby Hansen, Darrell Griffith and Jim Farmer and, judging by the whole season, was the Jazz's weakest area. After all, they have All-Star level players everywhere else, and the guards' failure to make jump shots was especially costly in the playoff series. "I don't want to get down on our guys," Checketts said. "It's too early to say we're going to ship Griffith or Hansen out of here. I do expect Bobby Hansen to come back and have a much better year, though."
Having supposedly, at least, locked up Karl Malone, Thurl Bailey and John Stockton with long contracts, Checketts will turn to Mark Eaton, who would be an unrestricted free agent after the 1989-90 season.
Checketts is waiting to evaluate Eaton's worth; he says he wants to "make sure I won't make decisions based on three games," after Eaton was ineffective in the playoffs, blocking two shots in three games.
"I'm not going to get too concerned about it at this point," said Eaton, the Jazz's player representative, who knows well how new free-agency rules have raised salaries. "There's no question things have changed a lot over the past couple of years."
Miller, meanwhile, had hoped to cash in on the Jazz's playoff success; he was banking on reaching the Western Conference finals. The cost of the early exit? "I would say it cost us a million bucks," he said calmly. "Maybe it's unfair, especially to the players, to just couch it in economic terms. It's not devastating, it's disappointing, financially and emotionally, both. It's a great puzzle."
As an unrestricted free agent, Iavaroni is exempt from the expansion draft. The Jazz only have to expose three players _ logically, that would mean Farmer, Jim Les and Jose Ortiz, but the Jazz could probably keep all three young players by exposing Darrell Griffith. "You never know what'll happen," Griffith said. Farmer will be a regular free agent; the Jazz will likely wait until after the expansion draft to sign him.
The Jazz divided $74,375 in playoff money Thursday, for having the third-best record in the Western Conference and appearing in the first round. Full shares of $5,533 went to the 12 players, while Bart Kofoed and assistant trainer Terry Clark received one-half shares and Scott Roth and the team's ballboys got one-quarter shares.