Karl Malone has it all planned out. He knows exactly how he wants to celebrate if the Utah Jazz win their first NBA title.
And, no, it doesn't include Disneyland."I'll sit out by my pool for three straight days," said Malone. "I won't answer the phone. I'll just sit there. When nightfall comes, I'll just pull a blanket over my head and stay right there. Three straight days. That'll be awesome."
At least now, a full week after dispatching the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals, the Mailman knows which team the Jazz have to beat to make his dream a reality. Actually, they probably figured all along they'd be playing the Bulls. It just took the five-time champs a few extra games to get past the pesky Indiana Pacers.
But, for the second year in a row, the playoffs turned out the way they were supposed to. The other 14 playoff teams were merely sideshows, while the two best teams during the regular season in their respective conferences, the Jazz and Bulls, survived.
Michael Jordan has a championship ring for each finger on one of his hands, including the thumb. He doesn't need a sixth, Utah's superstar contends.
"Michael's got all of them," said Malone. "I don't want to be greedy. I just want one. I don't want three, four, five or even two. I want one, so hopefully we can take care of business."
Both the Jazz and the Bulls won 62 games this season, but the Jazz have the home-court advantage by virtue of beating Chicago both times they met within a 10-day time period just prior to the All-Star break. That homecourt advantage will mean all the difference in the world, according to Peter Vecsey of NBC and the New York Post.
"The Jazz might lose the first game and still win the series," Vecsey told the Deseret News. "The Bulls will have to win two games in Salt Lake City to win because the Jazz are definitely going to win one of the three in Chicago."
Vecsey's pick? Jazz in five, despite the fact that he thinks the 10-day layoff hurts Utah's chances in the series opener.
Most people, including the Jazz players, expect a close series.
"If you've got a rematch in the Finals, you know you've got pretty even teams," said Jeff Hornacek. "With pretty even teams you know that the difference can be just a shot here or there. . . . We beat the Bulls twice this year, but they were both close games where we happened to make a big play or a big shot."
Last year it was Jordan and the Bulls who made all the big shots. The Bulls won the series 4-2, but three of Chicago's wins could have gone either way. Jordan made the last-second jumper himself in the series opener, scored 38 points while sick in Game 5's two-point win and assisted Steve Kerr's game-winning shot in the series-clinching Game 6 victory last year.
Chicago's dynasty is nearing the end of the line. Phil Jackson, the coach for all five championships, won't return. Scottie Pippen is a free agent who will likely be wearing a Phoenix Suns or some other such jersey next year. Jordan is likely to retire.
Knowing the run is all but over, the Bulls want to go out as champions. The Jazz want to put an end to the reign - and Malone wants to relax by the pool.
It should make for a fascinating series.