SALT LAKE CITY — Trees and flowers outside Vivint Arena are blooming. The promotional tents are up, the bands playing, the banners fluttering.
As if any other reminders were necessary, John Stockton is in town for the playoffs. Both he and son David were there Saturday for the Jazz’s runaway win over Oklahoma City. Time flies. Wasn’t it just five or six years ago the elder Stockton was running the offense and the Jazz were a threat to win the championship?
Try 20 years.
David, now a Jazz guard, was 6.
But he remembers fragrant Utah springs, the air cool and dry.
“Just the feeling, the weather, how the fans dress up,” David said as he sat in front of his locker prior to Saturday’s 115-102 win over Oklahoma City. “It really took me back, actually, today. You can just feel the energy.”
He didn’t elaborate because it’s not the Stockton way. John was all business and on point when he played. There was zero tangential banter during interviews. Karl Malone might muse about duck hunting, off-roading or high taxes — he addressed them all — but not John.
Basketball questions only, no prying allowed.
That’s much like talking to David, though by his own admission, he’s “a little more loose.”
He did seem slightly more relaxed, though his answers on Saturday were short and contained, all economy of movement. That’s how the Stocktons do things, on and off the court.
In honesty, David is going beyond the call to even acknowledge questions comparing himself to his famous father. That has to be tedious, especially since he fielded the same questions throughout four years at Gonzaga, where John also played. The comparisons will continue as Monday’s Game 4 of the playoffs approaches.
In March, when David was offered a 10-day contract with the Jazz, John said he wasn’t about to put pressure on his son.
“I’m glad to stay out of that,” John said. “He’s his own player and it wouldn’t do him any good to try to be me. He can just be the best he can be.”
In that light, I avoided asking David to make comparisons. John is in the Hall of Fame, with more steals and assists than any player in history. David played one minute and 29 seconds at the close of Saturday's game, registering no other stats. David executed carefully while on the court, concentrating on defense and setting up a play or two before the clock expired. There were no fancy passes or crazy shots.
I asked if he feels pregame jitters more or less strongly than he did as a kid, watching his father. I got a Stockton reply.
“I think it’s about the same,” he said. “I still care just as much as I did as a kid. My job title is just a little more simplified. So it’s about the same.”
John’s game-day routine was carefully regimented. He did little in the way of pregame interviews, though he was usually accommodating if reporters approached. But he wasn’t about to get distracted in extended conversations and hypotheticals.
That led me to ask David if he has his own pregame ritual.
“I just kind of get ready to go. That’s pretty much how I do it. I don’t have a routine,” the younger Stockton said. “I just have a normal day and try to relax and get myself mentally prepared.”
Polite answers with no specific details — just like you-know-who.
Asked whether he learned anything from his father about preparation, David said, “Yeah, you see what a professional does. It’s not just get up and play basketball. But I’m a little more loose than he is; he was probably a little bit more structured with his routine leading up to game time. He was a little bit different in that aspect. I like to keep it kind of free and easy.”
He also likes to keep the details mostly to himself.
Some things run in the family.