Karl Malone: "I'm honored to play with Shaq and Kobe!&q

Karl Malone: "I'm honored to play with Shaq and Kobe!&q

Postby 4Rings on Thu Jul 10, 2003 9:29 pm

L.A. Is Home Malone


By Tim Brown, Times Staff Writer

And so the Lakers became the hunted again, larger and more talented than anyone else, finally when Karl Malone telephoned Thursday to say he too would join them for next season.

Jerry Buss' organization, Mitch Kupchak's team, Phil Jackson's lineup, also will include Gary Payton, who called with similar news two days before, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, assuming neither Malone nor Payton changes his mind before Wednesday, the first day teams may enter into player contracts.

Malone, who once sounded unsure if he would appear on the same basketball court as Magic Johnson, soon will wear his jersey, having decided to play for the Lakers as No. 32, a number retired 11 years ago. On Thursday night, his sentiments bordered on reverential.

"I'm honored," Malone said from his farm in Arkansas. "I'm 40 years old, and I'm honored someone wants me. I'm honored to get a chance to play with Shaq and Kobe. I understand that this is their team."

At the conclusion of a breakneck period that is expected to redirect the course of Laker basketball, Malone and Payton, perennial All-Stars, joined together in an unprecedented bargain-rate commitment to the Lakers.

While they are free to change their minds for the next five days, both assured Kupchak that their commitments were final. Payton was to shop for houses on Thursday, and Malone is expected to arrive in Los Angeles early next week, joining his wife, Kay, who will look at homes this weekend. He has been on his ranch for about a week, spending at least some of that time lifting weights. He began his usual off-season regimen a month earlier than usual, preparing for his 19th season, his first away from the Utah Jazz.

On the occasion of his franchise player's departure, Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller said he would not fault Malone's goal, an opportunity for an NBA title before he was done.

"I don't think it's in me to deny him that, even if I could," Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller said. "If you've got to go with the odds, that's not a bad place to go."

In a remarkable turn of fortune for the salary cap-strapped Lakers, Malone, recognized as one of the 50 greatest players in league history, and Payton, a nine-time All-Star, took enormous pay cuts for perhaps a final, legitimate chance at a championship.

In the first days of July, Malone, who will beriod that is expected to redirect the course of Laker basketball, Malone and Payton, perennial All-Stars, joined together in an unprecedented bargain-rate commitment to the Lakers.

While they are free to change their minds for the next five days, both assured Kupchak that their commitments were final. Payton was to shop for houses on Thursday, and Malone is expected to arrive in Los Angeles early next week, joining his wife, Kay, who will look at homes this weekend. He has been on his ranch for about a week, spending at least some of that time lifting weights. He began his usual off-season regimen a month earlier than usual, preparing for his 19th season, his first away from the Utah Jazz.

On the occasion of his franchise player's departure, Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller said he would not fault Malone's goal, an opportunity for an NBA title before he was done.

"I don't think it's in me to deny him that, even if I could," Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller said. "If you've got to go with the odds, that's not a bad place to go."

In a remarkable turn of fortune for the salary cap-strapped Lakers, Malone, recognized as one of the 50 greatest players in league history, and Payton, a nine-time All-Star, took enormous pay cuts for perhaps a final, legitimate chance at a championship.

In the first days of July, Malone, who will be 40 near the end of the month, told Kupchak that he would come to the Lakers for less than market value, and would accept an even deeper cut if it meant the addition of Payton. Touched by the sentiment and also nearing the end of a long, distinguished and championship ring-less career, Payton took Malone's offer — and the Lakers'.

Malone, the power forward, and Payton, the guard, therefore unofficially joined O'Neal and Bryant, themselves future Hall of Famers and winners of three NBA championships under Coach Phil Jackson. Malone has a career scoring average of 25.4 points, Payton has averaged 18.3 points and both arrive with a reputation for sharing the ball, running the floor and working hard.

"They're both good guys," Magic Johnson said. "Here come two other good guys with the good guys we already have. What people don't realize, you don't have to worry about chemistry. People are worried there won't be enough shots. These guys are not about that. They're at a time in their career they want one thing, and that's the championship. If they were worried about that, they would have gone to other teams, because they would have had more shots and more money. But, at the end of the day, they said, 'We're going to get the championship.' That championship will turn into money. That's what people don't realize about L.A., and that's what I told 40 near the end of the month, told Kupchak that he would come to the Lakers for less than market value, and would accept an even deeper cut if it meant the addition of Payton. Touched by the sentiment and also nearing the end of a long, distinguished and championship ring-less career, Payton took Malone's offer — and the Lakers'.

Malone, the power forward, and Payton, the guard, therefore unofficially joined O'Neal and Bryant, themselves future Hall of Famers and winners of three NBA championships under Coach Phil Jackson. Malone has a career scoring average of 25.4 points, Payton has averaged 18.3 points and both arrive with a reputation for sharing the ball, running the floor and working hard.

"They're both good guys," Magic Johnson said. "Here come two other good guys with the good guys we already have. What people don't realize, you don't have to worry about chemistry. People are worried there won't be enough shots. These guys are not about that. They're at a time in their career they want one thing, and that's the championship. If they were worried about that, they would have gone to other teams, because they would have had more shots and more money. But, at the end of the day, they said, 'We're going to get the championship.' That championship will turn into money. That's what people don't realize about L.A., and that's what I told them."

By averaging a little more than 12 points over the next two seasons, Malone can pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA's all-time scoring record. Payton has averaged at least 20 points and eight assists the past five seasons, the longest such streak since Oscar Robertson did it in 10 in a row. And, while questions of four superstars sharing one ball abound, Johnson, the point guard, predicted a month or two of introductions, followed by seamless basketball.

"It'll work easy," Johnson said. "With the triangle offense, it's better for them. If it was another offense, it'd be tough. But, because of the triangle, everybody is spread out, nobody will be clogging the middle. When we rest Shaq now, the triangle offense will still be effective, because Karl Malone will move into that spot.

"That's why this is so great. Now we will always have two scorers on the floor. Before, you couldn't rest Kobe and Shaq together. You can rest both of them together. Foul trouble. Injuries. The things that plagued us last year won't hurt us, because we've got enough depth to handle those situations. You've got to play everybody on the court now. There's no cheating no more.

"I'll tell you another thing that's going to happen, we're going to get easier baskets, because we're going to run. I see a little bit of Showtime again, becaus them."

By averaging a little more than 12 points over the next two seasons, Malone can pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA's all-time scoring record. Payton has averaged at least 20 points and eight assists the past five seasons, the longest such streak since Oscar Robertson did it in 10 in a row. And, while questions of four superstars sharing one ball abound, Johnson, the point guard, predicted a month or two of introductions, followed by seamless basketball.

"It'll work easy," Johnson said. "With the triangle offense, it's better for them. If it was another offense, it'd be tough. But, because of the triangle, everybody is spread out, nobody will be clogging the middle. When we rest Shaq now, the triangle offense will still be effective, because Karl Malone will move into that spot.

"That's why this is so great. Now we will always have two scorers on the floor. Before, you couldn't rest Kobe and Shaq together. You can rest both of them together. Foul trouble. Injuries. The things that plagued us last year won't hurt us, because we've got enough depth to handle those situations. You've got to play everybody on the court now. There's no cheating no more.

"I'll tell you another thing that's going to happen, we're going to get easier baskets, because we're going to run. I see a little bit of Showtime again, because Gary will push that ball, Karl will fill that lane. And Kobe in the other lane? Ooooh, man!"

While details of their contracts must be negotiated, and the possibility remains that sign-and-trade deals with Malone's former team (Utah), along with Payton's (Milwaukee), would increase their salaries slightly, Malone has agreed to come for the $1-million exception (now worth $1.5 million) and Payton for the mid-level exception, estimated at $4.8 million.

Last year, in his 18th season for the Jazz, Malone earned $19.3 million. Payton, having split the season between the Seattle SuperSonics, for whom he played his first 12 seasons, and the Bucks, earned $12.6 million. By comparison next season, O'Neal will make $26.5 million and Bryant will earn $13.5 million.

Early in the summer and shortly after they were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals, the Lakers identified Payton as their first choice among free agents. If they could convince Payton to come, thereby firming their backcourt defense and overall athletic ability, then they would hope for a serviceable power forward, a great one considered something of a luxury with O'Neal at center and the salary cap full.

As free agency drew near for Malone and Payton, the Lakers would benefit from serendipitous events. Malone's longtime friene Gary will push that ball, Karl will fill that lane. And Kobe in the other lane? Ooooh, man!"

While details of their contracts must be negotiated, and the possibility remains that sign-and-trade deals with Malone's former team (Utah), along with Payton's (Milwaukee), would increase their salaries slightly, Malone has agreed to come for the $1-million exception (now worth $1.5 million) and Payton for the mid-level exception, estimated at $4.8 million.

Last year, in his 18th season for the Jazz, Malone earned $19.3 million. Payton, having split the season between the Seattle SuperSonics, for whom he played his first 12 seasons, and the Bucks, earned $12.6 million. By comparison next season, O'Neal will make $26.5 million and Bryant will earn $13.5 million.

Early in the summer and shortly after they were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals, the Lakers identified Payton as their first choice among free agents. If they could convince Payton to come, thereby firming their backcourt defense and overall athletic ability, then they would hope for a serviceable power forward, a great one considered something of a luxury with O'Neal at center and the salary cap full.

As free agency drew near for Malone and Payton, the Lakers would benefit from serendipitous events. Malone's longtime friend and teammate, John Stockton, retired. The organization considered a movement to restock its roster with younger, less expensive players, and Malone became convinced that a championship there was more years away than he had left.

In the meantime, Payton was traded in February of his walk year in Seattle. Still on the fringes of his prime, Payton would feel little loyalty to the Bucks, for whom he played for less than half a season. Payton said Wednesday that in the past he had spoken to Malone about playing together somewhere, chasing a title together somewhere, and now there they were, in free agency together, everything having gone just so.

Then Malone agreed Thursday, having left millions of dollars and greater roles on negotiating tables all over the conference, in San Antonio, Sacramento, Dallas and Utah.

Ironically, it was Johnson who played a critical recruiting role in acquiring Malone. Johnson's first comeback attempt, in 1992, a year after his disclosure he was HIV-positive, was aborted in part because of concerns about the ailment by fellow NBA players. Malone was among the most vocal.

The two quickly resolved their differences, Malone memorably embracing Johnson at the 1993 All-Star Game, and they have been great friends since. So, when the subject arose of Malone wearing Johnson's number, there was no hesitation.

"He d and teammate, John Stockton, retired. The organization considered a movement to restock its roster with younger, less expensive players, and Malone became convinced that a championship there was more years away than he had left.

In the meantime, Payton was traded in February of his walk year in Seattle. Still on the fringes of his prime, Payton would feel little loyalty to the Bucks, for whom he played for less than half a season. Payton said Wednesday that in the past he had spoken to Malone about playing together somewhere, chasing a title together somewhere, and now there they were, in free agency together, everything having gone just so.

Then Malone agreed Thursday, having left millions of dollars and greater roles on negotiating tables all over the conference, in San Antonio, Sacramento, Dallas and Utah.

Ironically, it was Johnson who played a critical recruiting role in acquiring Malone. Johnson's first comeback attempt, in 1992, a year after his disclosure he was HIV-positive, was aborted in part because of concerns about the ailment by fellow NBA players. Malone was among the most vocal.

The two quickly resolved their differences, Malone memorably embracing Johnson at the 1993 All-Star Game, and they have been great friends since. So, when the subject arose of Malone wearing Johnson's number, there was no hesitation.

"He said he wanted to wear it in my honor," Johnson said. "I said it was OK with me."


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Postby prontospyder on Fri Jul 11, 2003 8:09 am

great article. :)
Go Lakers!!
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