His decision may be linked with a similar one facing Stockton, who at week's end was second in the league in assists (9.3 per game) and whose contract expires this summer. "I'll believe John is going to retire when I hear it come out of his mouth," Malone says.
Here's one thing Malone is counting on: Marshall has agreed to join him next summer for his annual two-week boot camp in the miserable Arkansas heat. Asked how many players usually attend, Malone says, "Just me."
Detroit's Mateen Cleaves
A Lifetime of Change in a Year
Twelve months ago Mateen Cleaves had no idea how profoundly his life was about to change. As a senior point guard he would soon lead Michigan State to the NCAA title, becoming a national star. He would become the first-round draft choice of his boyhood favorites, the Pistons. He also would attend the funeral of his older brother.
Cleaves couldn't believe his good fortune when he was drafted to play in Detroit, only 50 miles from his hometown, Flint. He thought his biggest obstacle as a rookie would be the flat trajectory of his jumper. Since joining the Pistons, however, the 6'2" Cleaves has shot for at least a half hour before practice and an hour afterward. His shot's arc is hardly a rainbow, but at week's end he was shooting a respectable 43.5%, fifth best among rookies.
"I'm not worrying so much about getting down that so-called perfect technique," says Cleaves, who was averaging 5.8 points and 2.5 assists in 16.4 minutes coming off the bench. "I remember Michael Adams used to make all those three-pointers, and he shot the ball practically one-handed. Larry Bird looked like he was shooting from behind the back of his head. It was probably about a month into the season that I realized I can play with the guys in this league, and now I'm learning where my open shots are going to come from."
"I think he's going to be a Quinn Buckner type," says Pistons director of player personnel Brendan Suhr. "He's strong, and he can defend against either guard."
The proximity of Detroit to Flint allowed Cleaves to spend Feb. 17 with his brother. Herbert, 27—who had been in and out of Genesee County Jail at least seven times since 1991 for drug offenses and other crimes—was a gifted athlete who had taught Mateen to play basketball. "We went to the mall, hung out, went to eat," Cleaves said, recalling their recent Saturday together. "He told me how proud he was of me."
Mateen dropped off Herbert in Flint at 10 p.m. "Then I got the call late that night that crushed my heart," Mateen says. Herbert had been killed in a drive-by shooting.
"My mother and father raised me to be a man, and now it's time for me to be a man," Cleaves said last Saturday night in East Lansing, where he had watched his alma mater thrash Michigan in preparation for the NCAA tournament. During the game he rubbed a new tattoo on his left shoulder—it reads SLUGGO, Herbert's nickname—and he thought about the great distances he had traveled while staying close to home.