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The Sports View

By RICHARD SHAW
Sports reporter

The Karl Malone party is now over and the Jazz, as well as the fans, should be able to move forward. But there are still some questions remaining and at least one intriguing possible development I would like to examine.

While the roster is not yet set for this coming season, most of us are pretty sure that, unless something happens or Raul Lopez, Andre Kirilenko and Matt Harpring turn out to make for a lot better team than most of us think they will, the Jazz will probably be a lottery team next year. And maybe the year after for that matter.

Now that's not putting anyone down. I think the team is going to be exciting and in fact a young struggling team may be just what we need here for awhile.

Besides, personally, some of the best times I ever had watching professional basketball in Salt Lake City was in the days right after the Jazz came to Utah and I was young and poorer, so I sat in the upper bowl of the Salt Palace with a bunch of friends, had a beer and some pretzels and watched the Jazz lose. It was just great fun to see the NBA players parade through the Salt Palace.

However, in Malone's interview on Sunday night on one of the Salt Lake sports shows, he talked about a lot of things, including if he wanted to retire in a Utah uniform.

"I'd like to do that," he said. "Maybe it'll be one game in a Jazz uniform and I'll retire or maybe a season or two. Maybe I'll still be chomping at the bit."

As I heard that an intriguing thought came over me. Some very big if's ran across my mind.

What if the Lakers, as they are presently formulated, self destruct as many times teams with that many talented players do when they get put together?

What if Malone does not win his championship. Will he still be just as hungry at 43 years of age?

And let's say that the Jazz are bad the next two years, do well in the lottery and get a couple of great college or foreign players?

Let's also say they continue to have a lot of cap space and sign a couple of highly regarded free agents next year.

And let's also say that the core of what is left of the Jazz really develops, and that Lopez is the fine point guard we all hope, that Kirilenko develops into the glimpses of what we have all seen and that Harpring really takes off?

That's a lot of ifs. But wouldn't it be ironic, that a guy who helped put the Utah franchise on the map ends up coming back and winning a championship here because he can't win one with the Hollywood group? It would be great wouldn't it?

Who knows, if the team was good enough, even Stockton might unretire to try it one more time.

I know it's a stretch, but certainly stranger things have happened, and where better for it to happen than right here.

How sweet that would be.





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