SALT LAKE CITY —
Karl Malone is sounding off about being disrespected by the Utah Jazz, and the team owner is firing back. Meanwhile, the media are on high alert.
Isn't this where we left off in 2004?
It all started nine days ago when Malone went on 1280 The Zone for a four-hour session in which he covered a wide variety of topics. Trouble was, his recollections on the Jazz weren't the way the organization saw it.
He said Jazz CEO Greg Miller and general manager Kevin O'Connor failed to back Jerry Sloan the night he and Deron Williams had their fateful halftime blowup. Sloan resigned the next morning. But Sloan, Miller and O'Connor deny that's how it occurred. Sloan released a statement on Saturday saying he had "complete backing to run the team as I wished and was assured that no player could ever overrule my decision."
Malone said he would rate the Jazz management's performance that night a D or an F. He went on to say he had to buy tickets for the following game from a scalper, because the Jazz said they had none available.
"You never want to feel like you have to beg," Malone said.
A week later, Miller fired back. Using his Twitter handle @GregInUtah, the son of late Jazz owner Larry H. Miller wrote on Friday: "Hey Karl — you're lying. You have my number. Next time you need a seat to a Jazz game, call me. You can have mine."
Miller also used his blog, greginutah.com, to label Malone "too unreliable and unstable" to coach the Jazz big men and "still as high-maintenance as he ever was, but now he has nothing to offer to offset the grief and aggravation that comes with him."
He also quoted a "mentor" who said "Karl Malone is giant pain in the (rear), but he's our pain in the (rear)."
Looks as though Greg has finally filled his dad's shoes after all. Remember the times Malone chided Larry Miller for not paying him market value? The time he said Miller had barely talked with him all summer? The time he said he had played his final game in Utah?
In 2004 Malone called Jazz management "cowardly" and "classless" after the team mascot did a skit mocking Malone and then-teammate Kobe Bryant. Larry responded saying "I don't need Karl in my life" and referring to Malone's behavior as "kindergarten" and "rookie."
Yet somehow it always worked out. Usually there were tears involved in the make-up, and certainly there were when Malone retired and Miller passed away. Miller often referred to it as a father-son relationship. Now his real son Greg is lobbing mortar in a way his father never did, using Twitter and blogs.
During the radio show nine days ago, Malone accused former Piston Isiah Thomas of lying about the severity of the eye injury Malone inflicted on him in 1991. Now Malone is the one accused of fibbing.
Miller wrote in his blog: "Karl, I'm not sure where or how our relationship became so sour. I wish it was otherwise. … I'd love to do whatever I can to mend the fence and make you feel welcome at Jazz games. I would love to have you as an ambassador for the Utah Jazz. You have a standing invitation to do both."
No invitation to coach, however.
The current conflict has served to make a couple of things apparent. First, Malone can still be counted on to periodically expound on all things Jazz, unfiltered and unapologetic. When he's in one of those moods, stand back. Second, Greg Miller isn't above going mano-a-mano with Malone. Although less accessible than his father, he apparently is OK with blasting off an opinion or two on the Internet.
Meanwhile, the whole thing has a certain, well, kindergarten flavor to it.
"You pick your nose!"
"Oh, yeah, well you have cooties in your pants!"
"Nu-uh! Besides, your sister told me you wet the bed!"
"Neener-neener. DeLoy Schwartz eats his shorts!"
The Jazz could still turn this into a positive by saying the ticket situation was an oversight and give Malone a season pass. Malone could confess fondness for the organization and what it did for his career. As it currently stands, Malone is criticizing the franchise that made him famous, and the owner is ripping his team's greatest player.
If there is a silver lining to all this, it's that the best years the Jazz ever had were when Malone was periodically feuding with the Jazz ownership. So in that sense, they're headed in a good direction. All they need to worry about is now whether Michael Jordan comes out of retirement.
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