Bulls coach Phil Jackson called it "sadistic humor." The mere thought of matching Toni Kukoc up against Karl Malone. But that is exactly what Jackson told Kukoc after Chicago defeated Indiana in the Eastern Conference finale Sunday.
"I told Toni I was going to put him on Malone and let Dennis play (Greg) Foster just to see," Jackson said while earning a room full of laughter from the media. "Toni is a great postup defender, so we'll see how it goes."Chicago, however, is expected to restore Rodman to his starting role in the NBA Finals - meaning Kukoc will come off the bench.
"I think that Dennis comes to play, but I think he is struggling coming off the bench and accepting what the role is right now," Jackson said. "He'll have a different role in the next series. It's going to be his turn to shine, and if we are going to win it, he is going to have to play great."
FROM THE DAWG HOUSE: Antoine Carr thinks the Utah Jazz are a little bit smarter than they were a year ago. After losing to Chicago 4-2 in the 1997 NBA Finals, the Big Dawg has come up with a recipe for success this time around.
"It's all upstairs now," Carr said while pointing to head. "It's all in you heart and upstairs. If you get it done in both places, you've got a chance to be a champion."
Carr said the Jazz are approaching the championship rematch with absolute focus. So what, he said, if more folks are picking Utah to win this time around.
"We don't worry about the people trying to get up on the bandwagon. We know exactly who was on there beforehand," Carr added. "We're not worried about anything except meeting the challenge of the Chicago Bulls."
DA BULLS ARE HERE: After taking Monday off to recuperate from their seven-game series with Indiana, the Bulls flew to Salt Lake City Tuesday morning. Upon arrival, Chicago went straight to the Delta Center for a media availability session and a practice.
PACER FAN: The Jazz-Indiana Pacers Finals that almost was would have hurt NBC's ratings for the Finals. Michael Jordan and the Bulls have far more national and international appeal.
A Jazz-Pacers series wouldn't have done as much for ratings, but that's not to say all NBC employees are happy to see the Bulls in the Finals.
"I know everyone wants to see Jordan, but the Jazz and Pacers is what I really wanted to see," NBC studio analyst and New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey told the Deseret News. "It would be such a great matchup in basketball towns with stars who have never won the title before. Both (the Jazz and Pacers), from 1 to 12, have great guys, whereas the Bulls are so jaded by now after winning it so many times that they've become a pain. Those teams would appreciate it more than the Bulls."
NO WHINING ALLOWED: Jazz stars like Karl Malone and John Stockton do their fair share - if not more than their fair share - of complaining to referees on the court. Jerry Sloan directs plenty of criticism at the officials during games, too.
But when the games are over, the lips are sealed. The Jazz rarely talk about the refs to the media. Sloan won't tolerate it.
"I doesn't matter how it goes, we're not going to talk about the referees," said Malone. "I'm not and I never have. They have a (tough) job to do. If you spend all your time talking about those guys, it takes away from the game of basketball. Some coaches in past series have done that. Maybe their focus wasn't on winning ball games. Maybe their focus was on talking about the referees and their teams seemed to follow that."
Malone didn't name any names, but he didn't need to. Even Del Harris could probably figure it out.
PARTY ON: "Fan Fest" will be staged at the Gallivan Center, 200 South between State and Main Streets, on two separate days this week prior to Utah Jazz home games in the NBA championships.
From noon to 3 p.m. on both Wednesday, June 3 and Friday, June 5, there will be a variety of sports-related events going on, courtesy of Citadel Broadcasting of Salt Lake.
All-sports radio, KFNZ (alias "K-Fan," AM-1320), will broadcast the "Odd Couple" show live from the event, 1-3 p.m. each day.
Sister radio stations KUBL, KBEE, KENZ and KBER will also be involved in the Fun Fest, geared for each night's Jazz game.
There will be dunking booths to splash DJs, as well as pitching speed contests and other events. Jazz apparel will also be for sale at the Fun Fest.