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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Karl Malone, reflective after failing to add an
NBA title to his Most Valuable Player award, says he isn't sure he'll
return for another Utah Jazz season.
Two days after Chicago beat Utah 90-86 in Game 6 to claim its fifth
title in seven years, the 10-time All-Star said he would spend his
summer deciding what to do after falling agonizingly short of his first
``I've had 10 months of basketball,'' he said while attending wrapup
team meetings at the Delta Center Sunday. ``I had about a week and a
half off after the Olympics. I've had my share of basketball.''
Malone, who along with pick-and-roll partner John Stockton is under
contract for the 1998-99 season, said there are several factors to
``Part of it is who's coming back,'' he said, but declined to
specifically discuss the six Jazz players, including starters Jeff
Hornacek and Bryon Russell, who are free agents.
``I'm proud of these guys,'' was all Malone would add, his eyes taking
inventory of the teammates who joined him in setting a franchise record
of 64 regular-season wins. ``I'm prouder than I've ever been with a
group of guys.''
If the Mailman returns, he wants ``to get back to the finals next year,
no doubt about it.''
Jazz owner Larry Miller, the wealthy car dealer whose money saved the
Jazz from moving to Minnesota 12 years ago, just smiled when told of
Malone's apparent uncertainty. After all, it wasn't the first time -- or
second or even third -- that his 6-foot-9 power forward has ended a
tough season with hints of retirement.
``Karl's a guy trying to carry too much of this load,'' Miller said.
``He's just trying to gather himself. ... Karl wants to play another
two, three or four years. He's just sending out feelers.''
Besides 11-year veteran Hornacek and Russell, who completed his fourth
season with Utah, Miller must decide what to do with rookie swingman
Shandon Anderson, reserve center Antoine Carr, backup point guard Howard
Eisley and 12th man Stephen Howard.
On Miller's list of must-haves: Hornacek and Russell. He mentions Carr's
name quickly thereafter, and calls Anderson and Eisley, along with
starting center Greg Ostertag, ``the future.''
Hornacek was happy about Miller's stance. At this point in his career,
he says his top priority is the happiness of his wife Stacy, two sons
and a daughter.
``In my situation with a family, am I going to take my kids and go live
in Los Angeles or New Jersey? You weigh all the factors,'' he said.
``The odds of me leaving ... are greatly slim.''
Russell, too, wants to be back, but will ``take it in stride, take some
vacation and we'll met with Larry a bit later.''
However, the returns of journeymen Chris Morris, Greg Foster and Adam
Keefe don't seem as set in stone. Any one, or all of them, could be
trade bait during the off-season.
``Emotionally, I'd like to keep them all,'' said Miller. ``You look at
what we have, and we're an outstanding basketball team. At the same
time, we'll have to take a look at what's out there in the free agent
Stockton, 35, will return next fall for his 14th season with the Jazz.
Still, the struggle to accept falling short of what could have been
Utah's first NBA championship has not yet been put to rest.
``You can always say, `Next year.' But the time invested in getting so
far and losing the close games -- it's not an easy road,'' he said.
It was Stockton's buzzer-beating 3-pointer that sent the Jazz to their
first Western Conference title in 14 consecutive playoff appearances,
providing the defending champion Bulls with what proved their toughest
``Just to get this opportunity again, it's going to be a long road,''
the NBA's career assists and steals leader said.
But it is a road that Stockton, a nine-time All-Star, wants to revisit
after a summer's rest.
``That's what I'm going to take with me into next year.''
Malone, meantime, will try to forget, at least for a while.
``This summer we'll sit back and listen and watch and see what I'll
do,'' he said. An Alaska deep-sea fishing expedition, hunting, a trip to
Japan with wife Kay, and driving a truck for a small, unspecified rock
quarry all are on his list of things to do.
But the father of two girls and one boy said that in his family and
friends, he's already ``found what I was looking for.
``I'm happy ... but I have to think about life after basketball,'' Malone said. ``I can't do it forever.''
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) -- This is why golf is the cruelest game: Every once
in a while it lets you have everything your way. It lulls you into
thinking perfection really is possible.
And, then, with one swing, golf takes it all away.
``I don't cry,'' Tom Lehman said, ``but I feel like breaking something.
So when I get home, maybe I'll take my 7-iron and smash it against a
There is no need to break anything else. Lehman broke enough hearts with
just one shot to last a lifetime.
Sunday marked the third time he went out in the final group of the U.S.
Open and didn't come back with a trophy. This one clearly rocked him the
hardest. Because this time he felt like everything else was out of the
``I really believe I'm mentally tough enough, I'm confident enough, I'm
patient enough and I'm good enough. I haven't backed down. I haven't
wimped out. I haven't choked my guts out.
``It just hasn't happened.''
Dues paying was never an issue. With Lehman, it never is. He has learned
every lesson golf offers the hard way. He's had to win on Sundays
playing on obscure tours in out-of-the-way places just so he could make
enough to get a beat-up car back on the road and pointed at the next
On this Sunday, that seemed like forever ago.
When Lehman stood in the fairway at No. 17, he was not thinking about
making a living. That was behind him. He was not thinking about winning
his first major championship, but his second. Last summer's breakthrough
win at the British Open moved him into that small circle that admits
only the best players in the game. Winning the national championship in
his own land would move him into a smaller circle still.
That was the target Lehman drew in his mind's eye. He had 189 yards left
to a pin tucked on the left side of the green. A few yards farther left
was a pond. He barely acknowledged that part of the picture.
He had just come off a bogey at the 16th, falling one stroke behind
co-leaders Ernie Els and Colin Montgomerie. The biggest gallery on the
course, knowing how long and dutifully he had worked to reach that
juncture once more, urged him on.
Not that Lehman needed much coaxing.
``I had perfect yardage to a perfect pin. It was my bread-and-butter
shot, a right-to-left move. I even had a downhill-sidehill lie, which
helps turn the ball over a little.''
That's where Lehman's head was when he cradled a 7-iron in his fingers
and waggled the club one final time. Back it went. It came down to earth
a few blades of grass short of perfection.
``I caught it just a smidge on the heavy side,'' Lehman said. ``It was
going right at the flag, then it started turning.''
He put his head down for a moment, his chin resting on his chest. The
gesture had the same finality about it as his golf ball splashing into
the pond. Not since Bobby Jones in 1928-30 has a player shared or owned
the lead after 54 holes for three straight Opens. Jones cashed in two of
the three opportunities. The difference is that when Lehman looked down
at his hands Sunday, they were still empty.
``I don't think I missed a green from the fairway all week long,'' he
said. ``Until today.''
And even then, it was not until very late in the day.
Lehman had to get up at 5 a.m. to finish five holes from the suspended
third round. He made two birdies in that stretch to get to 5-under. That
placed him two better than Els, the eventual champion, and Jeff Maggert,
with whom Lehman played the final round, and three ahead of Colin
He left Congressional by 9 a.m., went back to the house he is renting,
took a nap and returned feeling refreshed. By the sixth hole, the rest
would come in handy.
Els, Maggert and Montgomerie all climbed into contention at 4-under.
Gradually, chasing one another over the peaks and down into the valleys
began to wear him down. He kept following the bogeys with birdies, until
it came down to that single shot at the 17th.
``By the time you get into that situation, it's just thrilling and you
just ... just ...''
Lehman paused again to compose himself.
``I was still a little surprised to swing and look up and see the ball
not going where I was aiming.''
It's amazing how much of Lehman comes through in both his golf swing and
his game -- workmanlike, short on flash, long on consistency. He makes
sober choices all the way around. He is genuinely surprised when they do
not come off.
``I would give anything in the world,'' he said, ``for a mulligan.''
So would we all.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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