Karl Malone's summer of discontent just continues.
The Utah Jazz power forward has made it known since training camp last October that he isn't happy with team management. On several occasions he's talked about the prospects of leaving the Jazz when he becomes a free agent following the 1998-99 season.But word now is that Malone - apparently frus-trat-ed with the Jazz and the Salt Lake media - is considering demanding a trade when the NBA lockout ends.
Even if Malone asks for a trade, it doesn't mean the Jazz have to oblige, of course. While the Jazz can't comment on such matters during the lockout, sources close to the team indicate that they have no desire, nor plans, to put the Mailman on the trading block.
They know from experience that even an unhappy Malone stays in outstanding shape and comes to work every day to help his team win. After two consecutive seasons of being the NBA runners-up, the Jazz know they have a team under contract that can compete again for the title - especially if Michael Jordan retires as expected.
Another give-away that this isn't a typical offseason for Malone is that he recently fired his longtime Salt Lake-based publicist, Roxanne Hasegawa.
Now all interview requests go through his Southern California-based agent, Dwight Manley.
While Malone has been unusually silent in the local press this summer, he has taken his plight up with the national media on select occasions, most recently with USA Today. He is also scheduled to go on Jim Rome's "The Final Word" television program on the Fox Sports cable network this week.
Did someone say trend?
"Everybody is speculating what I'm going to do," Malone told USA Today last week. "We'll see after a while. This go-around, Karl Malone will do what he has to do for himself. That's why I got an agent. . . . It's about principle. Now it's personal. This is not a ploy. Wait and see."
Malone, the NBA's fourth all-time leading scorer, has spent his entire pro career with the Jazz. USA Today speculated that the top contenders in the Malone sweepstakes should he leave Utah include the Lakers, Miami, New York, San Antonio and Chicago. Malone has also said in the past that he would love to play in rainy cities like Portland and Seattle.
Malone continues to insist that his problems with the Jazz aren't about money. He will earn approximately $6 million from the Jazz during the final year of his current contract - which is much lower than market value for a star of Malone's magnitude. But it's also the maximum he could earn under NBA rules that state a player can only get 20-percent salary increases if he doesn't become a free agent. Malone has never been a free agent.
Malone is apparently still unhappy with the Jazz because K-Fan radio hosts David Locke and Tom Nissalke are still on air on the team's flagship station. Following the Finals, Malone had demanded that they be fired - "them or me" - for being critical of him. He is also upset with others in the local media for criticizing his foray into professional wrestling and for reporting about three out-of-wedlock children by two women in Louisiana who may have been fathered by him.
Malone told ESPN he feels things would be different in New York or Los Angles and that "everything I do or say, I'm headlines in Utah."