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The NBA
Jackie MacMullan
May 29, 2000
Mail CallWhy the Jazz should look to deal Karl Malone
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May 29, 2000

The Nba

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Malone insists it's "not impossible" for Utah to contend again next season. We know better, and so does he. It's time for the Mailman to dig out those change-of-address forms. C'mon, Larry Miller, how about forking over the stamp?

Lottery Winners
Help Is on The Way

The upset winners of Sunday's NBA draft lottery were the Nets and the Grizzlies. They finished with the seventh-and fourth-worst records in the league, respectively, but came away with the first and second picks in the June 28 draft. Both teams can use all the help they can get.

After learning that he had this year's top choice, Nets general manager John Nash leafed through his appointment book with renewed purpose. "We had appointments with Mo Peterson, DerMarr Johnson and Courtney Alexander already scheduled," Nash said. "We'd made no contact with Kenyon Martin at all."

That's bound to change. The usually hopeless Nets will now take great pleasure in meeting and studying the most treasured college and high school stars on the market. Among the players suddenly on their list is Martin, the 6'9" power forward who played for four years at Cincinnati. "I'm pretty sure that's the direction they're going," said Vancouver's new team president, Dick Versace, suggesting that Martin is the most likely candidate to fill New Jersey's gaping needs inside, leaving such high-profile stars as Marcus Fizer, Stromile Swift and Chris Mihm for the Grizzlies to choose from.

Vancouver needed a dose of good news even more than the Nets did. The Grizzlies have had a tough year since expending the No. 2 pick last season on Steve Francis, who immediately demanded a trade and went on to be the NBA's co-Rookie of the Year for the Rockets. Meanwhile, as new owner Michael Heisley undertook his purchase of the team, he brought in Versace and a team of scouts to rate prospects for the Grizzlies—clearly undermining lame-duck president Stu Jackson, who recently quit to take a job at NBA headquarters. "There was a 2�-month period when Michael was waiting to close on the deal," Versace said. "We went scouting on his nickel, and because of that we have a good sense of what's out there."

Added Versace, "The strength of this team is its youth. In four years [star forward] Shareef Abdur-Rahim is still going to be just 27 years old." That may be another way of saying that Vancouver is desperate for veteran leadership, but Versace doubts he will trade the pick. "We won 22 games last year," Versace said. "Is a veteran going to get us to 40 or 42?" Most likely Vancouver will gamble on a player with a big upside—Swift, a 6'9" leaper from LSU, for example. "At Number 2, we might look for the guy who can be a star," Versace said, "because stars win games in this league."
—Ian Thomsen

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