By now, the Jazz's Salt Palace locker room has that familiar June look. The nameplates are already gone from above the lockers of Kelly Tripucka and Rickey Green and Draft Headquarters is in place - the board, with the names of the top 70 players; the television, screening videotapes with Dick Vitale broadcasting seemingly every game; the telephones, with scouts calling to compare notes on who will go when in Tuesday's NBA draft.
Nothing too exciting was happening Friday, as chief scout Scott Layden talked with the other Jazz coaches, called other teams, took a long lunch, visited with reporters and talked more. "For us, it's getting harder because we're picking later," he noted. "We're evaluating more people."Layden caught himself. "This work isn't hard," he said, smiling. "This is fun."
For Layden, this is Jazz Draft VIII - and maybe his last. The Minnesota Timberwolves will be hiring a director of player personnel soon and Layden and the 'Wolves are interested in each other, even after Layden saw what kind of teams were created by Thursday's expansion draft for Miami and Charlotte. "The reality of how poor the teams are set in as soon as we saw the list," he mused. "You always knew it was going to be tough, but when you saw the teams on paper . . . I knew it was going to be a tremendous challenge, but there's some excitement in that, too."
In any case, all that will wait at least until after Tuesday, when Layden and friends deliver three new Jazzmen, starting with the No. 17 choice in the first round. Names for '88? Wyoming center Eric Leckner, Arkansas center Andrew Lang, Oklahoma forward Harvey Grant . . . but who knows? Jazz drafts have produced a little of everything. A look at the Layden years:
1981: The 23-year-old Layden was hired two weeks before this draft, in which the Jazz made a controversial choice by taking Danny Schayes over Herb Williams at No. 13. Schayes was later traded to Denver for Rich Kelley and cash, but just look at Schayes now. He's tremendously improved and, as an unrestricted free agent, will command plenty of money this summer. In the fourth round, the Jazz took George Torres, a Puerto Rican who lost his Olympic eligibility by signing a contract but became homesick in the CBA and went home.
1982: "If we were so smart," says Layden, "we would have picked Mark Eaton third." He means third overall, where they took Dominique Wilkins and ended up selling/trading him to Atlanta, but he could also have said in the third round, where they took BYU's Steve Trumbo. Only in the fourth round did they take Eaton, who'd played all of 41 minutes as a UCLA senior. "That (ick) was the most important to the franchise," notes Layden.
1983: Having started with Eaton, the Layden reputation grew with this draft. The Jazz took Thurl Bailey at No. 7 in the first round and found Bobby Hansen in the third round.
1984: The run of first-round success continued with John Stockton, a choice kept almost completely secret until the Jazz announced him at No. 16.
1985: In this case, the Jazz were just a little lucky. They finished 41-41, tied with San Antonio, but won a coin flip with the Spurs and drafted 13th instead of 14th. That was merely the difference between Karl Malone and Alfredrick Hughes, although the Jazz wouldn't have taken Hughes - they had another surprise in mind, guard Terry Porter. Layden
was a little shaken when Porter ended up lasting until the end of the first round, but Porter has proven the Jazz - and Portland - right.
1986: The Jazz took Dell Curry, who was the best righthanded pitcher and second-best shooting guard in the draft. "We really thought he was a much better player," says Layden. Curry has spent one year each in Utah and Cleveland, but he was, of course, valued highly enough to be the first player picked in the expansion draft.
1987: A mistake - but only now can anyone say that. The Jazz wanted point guard Muggsy Bogues, who went to Washington at No. 12, and settled for Oregon State forward Jose Ortiz at No. 15. Following a contract misunderstanding during the NBA moratorium with a new collective bargaining agreement pending, Ortiz decided to play in Spain last season and now, according to his agent, intends to play in only one NBA city, Miami.
"I wish I had some indication that all this was going to happen, but that's not the case," said Layden. "With all the good luck we've had, we got some bad luck last year."
The consolation is that the new agreement gives the Jazz Ortiz's NBA rights forever - or at least until the agreement expires in 1994. Another team could sign him only by trading for his rights.
So Layden will work through the weekend, trying to find just the right guy at No. 17. He'll also have choices in the second and third rounds of the shortened draft - another effect of the new agreement - and has already invited six players to rookie camp, if they're not drafted.
Last June, he came up with Bart Kofoed in the fifth round, and Kofoed ended up being the Jazz's No. 2 off guard during the playoffs. From now on, the Kofoeds of the world can choose to try out for the worst teams that offer the best chance, or the best teams that offer guaranteed money just for coming to camp. Says Layden, "It's going to be tough now to compete for free agents." Then again, they can see what the Jazz have done with players like them.