A relationship once akin to father-and-son has disintegrated into an epic family feud.
Jazz owner Larry H. Miller is blasting ex-Jazz star Karl Malone, whose new team the Los Angeles Lakers visits his old one Monday night at the Delta Center.
His ire is so strong Miller does not know what will come of plans to raise a Malone statue outside the Salt Lake City arena and he questions the status of their longstanding business alliance.
"I don't care," Miller said when asked if he wishes Malone, who now does not plan to play Monday because he's recovering from a torn knee ligament, will approach him to mend their fractures. "I don't need Karl in my life. I'm getting along just fine."
The owner's voice broke as he spoke, but Miller shed none of the tears that so frequently flow when he addresses an emotional issue.
Through his agent, Malone, who played his first 18 NBA seasons in Utah, declined comment Saturday.
But agent Dwight Manley did talk.
"Karl's on edge, rightly so, about where (the Jazz) are coming from," he said. "He (Malone) . . . was always very loyal. He never cried he was hurt and never didn't carry his load.
"So it's kind of sad," Manley added, "for somebody like Larry, who has so much, to cry like a child who has their toy taken away from them."
Miller and Malone feud with frequency but always before managed to patch differences often with one expressing great fondness for the other.
Asked if the relationship can be repaired yet again, however, Miller sounded uncertain.
"That's up to Karl," he said. "But he's done a lot of damage. So, let's just say justice will be served."
Manley was more optimistic: "I know Karl, deep down, likes Larry and wants to be friends in some fashion. It's the little things that irk him."
Miller is upset with Malone's response to a much-publicized skit, performed with Jazz-brass approval, that mocked Malone and Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant during L.A.'s last Utah visit.
"He's kindergarten-, rookie-, . . . amateurish in his reaction," Miller said late Friday.
"Karl plays to the current crowd. He seems to have no foundation to which he attaches himself and knows who . . . he really is. So he plays to the current crowd, trying to impress them. Every dog has their day."
During a break in play in the Jan. 24 game one that Malone did not even attend because of his knee injury the Jazz's mascot, "Bear," answered a phony telephone call delivered over the Delta Center's public-address system.
A caller mimicking Malone's voice claimed he wanted to come "home" because Laker fans were "mean" to him. The imitator also said, "I guess it could be worse; I could be Ko . . . " a truncated reference to Bryant, who is facing trial on a sexual assault charge.
The Jazz were fined $15,000 by the NBA for the skit and issued the Lakers an apology.
Malone's reaction: "I will never, ever forgive (the Jazz) for this. No class at all."
Additional comments were printed in the Orange County Register: "I always knew (leaving the Jazz) was the right thing to do," the Register quoted Malone as saying. "But after stuff like that, it just shows it was the right thing to do."
Malone also called unnamed Jazz front-office staff members "cowards."
Miller was crushed.
"I would think Karl would want to think twice before saying what he said about me and about the organization when he's a partner with the guy in three car dealerships," said Miller, who runs an auto-sales empire. "He better think about the long-term part of it.
"We crossed the line when we said the Kobe thing. . . . But as far as what we said about Karl, it was in good fun," Miller added. "He had been part of us, and it seems he took that opportunity to sever that cord. So, so be it."
Countered Manley, who said the Jazz have been "backstabbing" Malone: "You can't say that's in good fun."
As for the statue, Miller intends to honor retired point guard John Stockton with one.
Malone, he's no longer so sure.Comment on this story
"I will tell you John will be going up in about a year," Miller said. "Karl hasn't bothered to show up to get measured. So if he doesn't care enough to get measured, I don't care enough to pay $250,000 to have a statue made."
Malone, Manley suggested, has been too busy for such matters.
"John (Stockton) may be able to fly in for a measuring of a statue," he said, "but Karl's playing and rehabbing" his knee.
This rift, however, goes far beyond bronze.
"Hey," Miller said, "if it's gonna be a one-way street, . . . I don't need it. I put up with it for 19 years."The first 18, he added, "there was good and bad. Now, there's only bad."