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No regrets

Malone plays in game after conflict with NBA

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Posted: Monday February 14, 2000 01:29 PM

  Karl Malone Warming to the bench: Karl Malone enjoyed watching the game and chatting with his teammates. Donald Miralle/Allsport

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A puzzling dispute between the NBA and one of its biggest stars came to an uneasy resolution.

Karl Malone ended a weekend getaway with his family and arrived hours before Sunday's All-Star game, defusing a league threat to suspend him unless he fulfilled an obligation to appear in the showcase.

The two-time league MVP played in his 12th All-Star game, but played just three minutes and didn't score in the Western Conference's 137-126 victory over the East.

"I talked to people and they knew the only way I would come was under these circumstances," Malone said. "I'm not trying to make it seem like I don't care about the All-Star game. But if everything was done over again, I would do the same thing."

The Utah Jazz forward said his desire to spend time with his family during the midseason break somehow became a battleground pitting him against league officials as well as the NBA's younger set.

He insisted the test of wills between him and the league and his distaste for the way the NBA is promoting its rising stars over those who are more established had nothing to do with his absence from most of the weekend activities.

Malone, whose first attempt to get out of his All-Star duties by claiming he had a sore back was rebuffed by league management, watched most of the game from the sideline. And he said he had fun doing it.

"That was fine," Malone said. "I've been nursing some injuries. I talked to coach (Phil Jackson) right before the game and he said, 'You can play as much as you want or as little as you want.' And that's what I wanted to play. I talked to the guys on the bench and I enjoyed myself. I knew I would once I got here."

Jackson said he honored Malone's request to play sparingly.

"He said, 'I don't know if I'm capable of more than 4-5 minutes. I just need to make the appearance,'" Jackson said. "So we pulled him."

Malone, whose Jazz played their last game Wednesday before the All-Star break, said he and his wife and children spent time on their Arkansas ranch and he also went to Louisiana to see his teen-age son and daughter from a previous relationship play basketball.

"I don't know what the big deal is. It's kind of amazing. We as pro athletes are criticized when you don't do things with your kids or spend time with your family and I was trying to do that. It was a great opportunity for me to see my kids play and spend time with my kids," he said.

Malone learned Sunday he had been fined for missing Friday's mandatory media session, but said he didn't care.

"If I'm going to get fined so I can see my kids, I'll take that," he said.

The league also had threatened additional fines and a possible five-game suspension if Malone blew off the whole All-Star weekend.

Utah teammate John Stockton, a member of the Western Conference all-stars, said he was relieved Malone finally showed up so the Jazz can start the second half at full strength.

"I'm just glad he's here," Stockton said. "He's a good friend and it's good to share this event with him. I'm just glad this is over and he's here playing."

Malone never indicated in the days before the All-Star game whether he would attend. He declined to say if he thought the league might have handled the matter with a softer touch if he had been more definitive with his plans.

He also declined to discuss his feelings toward NBA management.

"I'm going to do a book one day and it will be in there," he said. "Right now, I don't want to talk about it. I'm still playing."

As for his past complaints about the younger generation's "disrespect" for the game, Malone insisted it was overblown and certainly had nothing to do with his pre-game All-Star absence.

"Everybody wants to portray me like I'm jealous of the younger guys," Malone said. "I made my mark in this league and I continue to try to do my own little thing. There's no ill feelings at all because this changing of the guard, so to speak, is going to happen to everybody whether it's Karl Malone or whoever. I have no grudges."


 
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