The Utah Jazz heard all about Shaquille O'Neal's threats to throw elbows and smash noses in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals with the Los Angeles Lakers. Still, the Jazz seemed less than nervous about it after practice Sunday.
"If he wants to throw them," said Antoine Carr, "it's no big thing. All of us are humans. We all have two elbows."Jazz coach Jerry Sloan seems to think the referees will have things under control.
"That's fine. He can do that," said Sloan of O'Neal's elbow threats. "That's why we have officials. If we didn't have officials and he starts saying those things, then I'd be concerned because then somebody's going to get hurt. And it would probably be us because he's so big and strong."
Karl Malone, who has been known to throw an elbow or two (just ask David Robinson), wouldn't comment on O'Neal's threats.
GREAT PLAN - OR NOT: "We have a game plan (for guarding Shaq) and we're keeping it to ourselves," said Malone prior to Saturday's game.
The plan seemed to work, too, as O'Neal scored only 19 points and none in the first quarter when the Jazz were taking control of the game.
While the world was able to watch what the Jazz were doing - playing Shaq straight up until he got the ball inside and made a move, at which time he'd be double-teamed - John Stockton was still trying to keep the plan a secret. In fact, he denied it even existed.
"I don't know if we had a game plan (for guarding O'Neal)," said the Jazz point guard. "Game plans don't work on him."
JEERS TO CHEERS: O'Neal says the constant jeers he hears in the Delta Center are nothing but a 26-year-old guy getting respect.
"It really doesn't bother me," he told reporters Sunday. "That's just telling me one thing, that all these people in Utah respect my game."
RINGING OFF THE HOOK: After his sub-par performance in Game 1, O'Neal got telephone calls from three influential sources - Lakers basketball operations chief Jerry West, team vice president Magic Johnson and Phillip Harrison, Shaq's stepfather.
Each advised O'Neal, who turned the ball over seven times and shot 6-of-16 from the field, to be more patient on offense.
"I think they were right," he said. "I can't rush it."
GETTING TECHNICAL: Lakers coach Del Harris dismissed the notion that two technicals and a pair of flagrant fouls in Game 1 were proof that his young team had lost its cool. His defense? The Utah Jazz.
"I don't know if you should use arguing with the officials as a measure of composure," Harris said. "Then Utah wouldn't qualify. Probably nobody complains more to the officials than they do. Proof of that is their coach led the league in technicals and Karl Malone led the league in technicals among players."
OVERCOMING EXPERIENCE: Teen phenom Kobe Bryant says little has changed since the Jazz and Lakers met in the 1997 conference semifinals.
"We are still inexperienced. You could never make up for that in a year," Bryant said. "We're going to make some mistakes. You just have to find ways to get around that. You have to make up for it with your hunger and aggressiveness and your desire."
And, one could add, fewer airballs.
TURNING UP THE VOLUME: Eddie Jones ain't heard nothing yet. Especially if Jazz mascot "Bear" and his motorcycle are in attendance at Game 2.
"I thought Seattle was the loudest (arena), but I've got to rethink it now," Jones said of the Delta Center. "These fans are loud, and sometimes they're mean."
A BIG LOSS: Sure, it was a 35-point thumping, but the blowout still only counts as one loss in the series for the Lakers. Or does it? Well, not if you go by the official scorer's report.
According to the boxscore distributed to the media at the Delta Center following Utah's 112-77 victory, the Jazz have a 1-0 record in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers are listed as being 0-11 in the best-of-seven(ty?) series.
RETURN TO SENDER: Salt Lake City has been described as the Green Bay of the NBA, and now Jazz fans have something else in common with their Wisconsin brethren.
A number of Utah fans attended Saturday's game sporting mailbox hats in honor of the Mailman, Karl Malone. In downtown Salt Lake on Sunday, several more mailbox hats were spotted.
"It's just something kind of unique and different," said fan Sandy Taylor. "We love Karl, and nobody else is the Mailman."