If Malone and Stockton don't return, the Jazz would be about $18 million under the salary cap, enough to land a top free agent (below). But Miller wants his stars to come back—as long as it's at a price more reasonable than their current salaries. ( Stockton makes $7.9 million.) "For example, let's say we paid them each $5 million: That would leave us with $8 million to sign an impact free agent," says Miller. "I've always said that I want Karl to retire in a Jazz uniform, happy and healthy and with the alltime scoring record. I've also told Karl that my Number 1 responsibility is the economic and competitive viability of the team. It's going to be an interesting balancing act between them and the team."
By no means is this going to be a routine summer for the league's most stable roster, which has had Stockton and Malone since 1985. "I said to Karl, 'If we help you make the decision to leave and you don't win a championship, are you going to be mad at me?' " says Kay. "He said no, he wouldn't be mad. I said, 'Come on now, pinky swear on it.' Then I made him triple pinky swear, just to be sure."