Rose will probably never be as good as John Stockton of the UTAH JAZZ. Sometime in late January, Stockton will break Magic Johnson's career assist record of 9,921; the historic pass will probably result in a hoop by Karl Malone, another future Hall of Famer.
And sometime in May, Utah will be knocked out of the playoffs. It's a familiar story in the NBA: a team with two stars, one good player (guard Jeff Hornacek) and not enough depth to reach the Finals. The Jazz went to the conference finals last year, but it's too much to ask Stockton, 32, and Malone, 31, to carry that load again. Malone now has input on personnel decisions, but the most intriguing off-season additions were the tattoos he and center Felton Spencer each had applied to his right calf. Malone chose a buffalo skull to honor Native Americans. Spencer selected a Tasmanian devil and the inscription WHUT UP? Not the Jazz, who will be hard-pressed to win 53 games again.
The DALLAS MAVERICKS have won 53 games—and lost 221—since March 1, 1991. The Mavs have not only been bad, but they've also been boring. Rookie Jason Kidd will take care of that.
Although his outside shot isn't the greatest, Kidd's ball handling, passing, rebounding and enthusiasm have already made him a favorite of fans and teammates in Dallas. Forward Jamal Mashburn, who was the happiest Mav when coach Quinn Buckner and his ill-conceived offense were canned after last season, will probably get three more buckets a game playing with Kidd in new coach Dick Motta's forward-oriented system.
At 6'4" and 205 pounds, the 21-year-old Kidd doesn't look like a kid. "I hope I don't see a point guard bigger than me," he says. (Of course he will.) He hopes he does see a lot of 7-foot center Roy Tarpley, who missed the last three years because of a drug suspension. "We're going to bring the excitement back," Kidd promises. "The wins and losses will take care of themselves."
As is usually the case, the losses will take care of themselves for the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES. With the trio of Stacey King, Mike Brown and Charles Shackleford at center, new assistant G.M. Kevin McHale is Minnesota's best big man. The T-Wolves had no scorer in the top 35 last year; in fact, they had only one player in the top 10 in any category (Micheal Williams, 10th in assists).
But with a new coach, a new owner ( Glen Taylor, who saved the team from moving to New Orleans) and real hope for stability for the first time since the T-Wolves joined the league five years ago, things are looking up. Christian Laettner cut his hair and ditched his headband—and, with any luck, his surly attitude. Donyell Marshall, a 6'9" forward who was the No. 4 pick in last summer's draft, will battle underrated Doug West for a starting job. Second-year guard Isaiah Rider rounds out a promising nucleus. "The cupboard's not bare," says rookie head coach Blair, 52, who spent 15 years as an assistant in the NBA before getting the top spot in Minnesota. " Vince Lombardi was an assistant for 11 years. I'm not proclaiming myself a Saint Vince, but I'm hoping this can work out."