Salt City Hoops » Karl Malone http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:09:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops » Karl Malone http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com/category/players/karl-malone/ “Utah Jazz Basketball”: A Look At Assisted Field Goal % http://saltcityhoops.com/utah-jazz-basketball-a-look-at-assisted-field-goal/ http://saltcityhoops.com/utah-jazz-basketball-a-look-at-assisted-field-goal/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 21:45:36 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8022 Author information
David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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We often hear, when the Jazz win, that the team won by playing “Utah Jazz basketball.” For me, that has always connoted heart, hustle, tough defense, smart offense, and above all, teamwork.

When you think about the best teams in franchise history, they often exuded teamwork – an altruistic mindset. These Jazz squads were the ones who seemed to take joy in making the extra pass and in doing so, everyone got involved. The teamwork and passing was simply contagious. The result were some very successful years and many deep playoff runs. Moreover, they were a complete delight to watch, especially for basketball purists.

They were rosters comprised of many capable and, more importantly, willing passers. While John Stockton and Deron Williams were naturally the catalysts behind these stellar passing teams, the Jazz have had a bevy of excellent passers in Karl Malone, Jeff Hornacek, Andrei Kirilenko, Howard Eisley, and so forth.

One of my favorite statistics to watch: the percentage of the team’s total field goals which were assisted. Let’s call this the Assisted Field Goal Percentage, or AFG%. The team that has the higher percentage often places themselves in a good position to win on a given night. For instance, when the Los Angeles Clippers demolished the Jazz Saturday evening, they did a masterful job executing (especially in a preseason outing). Led by Chris Paul and Darren Collison, they assisted on 29 of their 43 field goals–a 67.4 percent clip. Furthermore, it was much higher through the first three quarters, prior to letting the end of the bench finish the evening out. The Clippers did a lot of other great things that night and the Jazz had a rough go at it, but the high AFG% definitely contributed to LA’s victory.

Here is a historical look at how the Jazz have done on AFG%. Let’s start with the 1987-88 campaign, when Stockton and Malone took the NBA by storm (side note: many people cite this as the first year Stockton started. He did start 38 games his second season.). Besides AFG%, the overall field goal percentage and record are also included.

Season FGs Asts AFG % Overall FG% Record
1987-88 3,484 2,407 .691 .491 47-35
1988-89 3,182 2,108 .662 .482 51-31
1989-90 3,330 2,212 .664 .505 55-27
1990-91 3,214 2,217 .690 .492 54-28
1991-92 3,379 2,188 .647 .492 55-27
1992-93 3,336 2,177 .653 .489 47-35
1993-94 3,207 2,179 .679 .477 53-29
1994-95 3,243 2,256 .696 .512 60-22
1995-96 3,129 2,139 .684 .488 55-27
1996-97 3,131 2,199 .702 .504 64-18
1997-98 2,993 2,070 .692 .490 62-20
1998-99 1,684 1,204 .715 .465 37-13*
1999-00 2,962 2,041 .689 .464 55-27
2000-01 2,960 2,110 .713 .471 53-29
2001-02 2,869 1,999 .697 .450 44-38
2002-03 2,894 2,103 .727 .468 47-35
2003-04 2,690 1,671 .621 .436 42-40
2004-05 2,828 1,826 .646 .449 26-56
2005-06 2,744 1,772 .645 .442 41-41
2006-07 3,069 2,024 .659 .474 51-31
2007-08 3,279 2,165 .660 .497 54-28
2008-09 3,143 2,024 .644 .475 48-34
2009-10 3,227 2,187 .678 .491 53-29
2010-11 3,064 1,921 .627 .465 39-43
2011-12 2,523 1,439 .570 .456 36-30*
2012-13 3,046 1,859 .610 .454 43-39

(*-Lockout seasons)

While pace and scoring have fluctuated greatly in the NBA the past few decades, the Utah Jazz has been consistently high in AFG%. From 1987 to 2009–much of which came under Jerry Sloan’s tenure–the team had an AFG% of 64.4 percent or higher 22 of 23 seasons. During the 15 seasons where the team eclipsed the 50-win mark (including the 1998-99 lockout season where they would have), Utah sat between 66 and 71.5 percent 14 of those years. The high mark in 2002-03 happened to be the final season before #12 and #32 rode off into the sunset. 72.7 percent is simply stellar.

The past few seasons have been much lower, particularly the most recent lockout season. The offense focused on Al Jefferson’s low post abilities, which had some definite positives. It also took away from the more open, free passing offense that has been a stable of Utah Jazz basketball for decades. Likewise, the changing of the point guards–Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley, and Mo Williams–definitely contributed. Without consistency at the helm, it is difficult to set the tone.

While this season will be a season of some growing pains, along with the defensive foundation that Tyrone Corbin and the front office has been fittingly espousing as a goal for this year, the Jazz would do well to help reestablish Utah’s longstanding focus on smart and effective passing, while boosting the team’s AFG%. Trey Burke’s injury certainly hurts, but with able passers like Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, and some big guys who can dish, there are some very good pieces in place. As the team rebuilds, if it is to return to the ranks of contenders, keep an eye on the AFG%–it’s a true part of “Utah Jazz basketball.”

Author information

David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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Could Karl Malone Play in the NBA at Age 49? http://saltcityhoops.com/could-karl-malone-play-in-the-nba-at-age-49/ http://saltcityhoops.com/could-karl-malone-play-in-the-nba-at-age-49/#comments Sun, 23 Jun 2013 16:43:45 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6716 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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What would it be like if Karl Malone suddenly uttered, in the third person language he so often uses, “Karl Malone is coming back to basketball”?

As all Jazz fans know by now, Karl Malone was recently hired as a part-time player development coach for the Utah Jazz—being given the specific responsibility to mentor the young and veteran post players in the organization. It’s true his return has created a stir among Jazz nation, with many critics of Malone’s free spirit personality claiming the decision to hire him was a poor one, especially considering his history of unfulfilled commitments since retiring from professional basketball in 2004. Even Jeff Hornacek, Karl’s former teammate with the Jazz, took time to make light of hiring Malone as a coach. Immediately after Hornacek accepted the head coaching job with the Phoenix Suns, he said he’d contact Malone about serving as an assistant, but claimed he had doubts about receiving a commitment because Karl would want to go fishing after a couple of weeks.

Not everyone is concerned about Malone’s commitment to his new part-time coaching gig, but some do wonder what fueled him to make a return to basketball. Most former NBA stars of Malone’s caliber (other than Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Isiah Thomas), choose to remain far away from the sidelines after they finish their careers. Of course, there may be varying reasons why many former greats practice intentional avoidance when it comes to basketball, but some undoubtedly do it because it’s painful to be so close to the action without putting on a uniform. Other retirees do it because they can’t handle watching other players fail to do things they did easily during their own playing careers. It seems this would be especially difficult for Karl Malone, one of the best power forwards to ever set foot on an NBA court. But it’s possible Karl Malone accepted this coaching job to see how he measures up against the young NBA talent of today.

Ever since the Jazz announced Karl Malone’s return as part-time coach, I can’t stop myself from imagining him in a Jazz uniform again. There’s a chance I’m consumed by illogical thinking, but is it silly of me to think that Karl Malone (age 49), could realistically make a return to the NBA? Is it also unrealistic of me to think that deep down, some part of Karl Malone has always wanted to return as a player? I would venture to say neither one of those notions are completely impossible or entirely out of the question. Remember, this is Karl Malone we’re talking about: the man who still exercises and trains the way he did when he played for the Jazz. The man who still has biceps larger than a human head. The man of many words, who never shies away from a challenge or showmanship, nor cowers from any opponent. The 14-time All-star, two-time league MVP, all-time leader in defensive rebounds, and second leading scorer of all-time. The Hall of Famer who, with the help of a man named John Stockton, kept the small-market Jazz on the map for nearly two decades. If there is any doubt about what Karl Malone has done for the NBA or the Jazz organization, just take a look at his statue outside of Energy Solutions Arena.

It is admirable that Karl Malone accepted the invitation to help the Jazz bigs develop and hone their skills, but you wonder if assisting these young bigs (who are nowhere near his talent level), will bring all the competitive memories flooding back. Maybe Karl Malone believes (with some help), he could elevate the Jazz to championship status as a player even at age 49. Maybe he’ll get fed up with coaching and decide he can still wreak some havoc on the court. Maybe he hasn’t forgotten the two NBA titles that Michael Jordan and the Bulls stole away from him in 1997 and 1998, or the one the Pistons stole in 2004—and maybe he wants another shot. Maybe he wants to prove that he can still average double digits in scoring and rebounding. Maybe he hears everybody telling him it’s foolish to think about, and maybe he doesn’t care. As Jazz fans, we may never know.

Most critics believe at some point down the road, whether it’s this season or next, Karl Malone will step away from the Jazz. The way he’ll make his exit is still up for debate. Some say he’ll ride off into the sunset on a horse, go back to meticulously cleaning his rifles, and take a few extra fishing trips with his buddy and fellow outdoor enthusiast John Stockton. Those critics might say that Malone is walking away because he doesn’t know how to keep a commitment, but I believe the reason could be quite different. If he does leave sooner than later, maybe it’s because he too realizes that returning to basketball is out of the question, and that truth alone becomes more than he can take. Or maybe he listened to Clyde Drexler’s response to a reporter when asked if he could still lace up his shoes for another NBA game: Drexler replied that he could play for the full 48 minutes, and then he’d be forced to sit in an ice bath the rest of the week.

Basketball fans (especially Jazz fans), love making predictions, even if it’s clear the opinions we express are sorely misguided. It’s obviously difficult to predict a future that isn’t yet realized, but for now we do know—“Karl Malone is coming back to basketball”, just as an assistant coach. The rest is partly imaginative speculation, and mostly wishful thinking.

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Jazz Quietly Winning the Off-season http://saltcityhoops.com/jazz-quietly-winning-the-off-season/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazz-quietly-winning-the-off-season/#comments Thu, 20 Jun 2013 18:58:12 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6663 Author information
David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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A few weeks ago, assistant coach and Utah Jazz legend Jeff Hornacek left the team for the Phoenix Suns coaching gig. That was a bittersweet day for most fans, as few are as adored as Horny was/is. We were sad to see a beloved player and bright assistant coach leave, but were also happy for him to get a head coaching opportunity, especially this early in this new phase of his career. He’ll do great in Phoenix.

Since then, however, the Utah Jazz have quietly been winning the off-season.

While the Draft, free agency, summer league, and potential trades are the main components of the off-season, what the Jazz have accomplished the past few weeks is setting the foundation for a very memorable and successful summer.

First, Karl Malone was brought back into the fold as a special coach working with the big guys. Naturally the thought of the Mailman spending time with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, and whoever else is drafted or signed is exciting in itself. If the Hall of Fame power forward can share even a glimpse of his work ethic, professionalism, and absolute knowledge of the game, the young guys will be much better for it. While it is a part-time gig and it remains unknown how much time will be expended or the exact levels of involvement for Malone, it is refreshing to see Karl back where he belongs: with the Utah Jazz.

Moreover, it signifies a burying of the hatchet between Malone and Greg Miller. Over the years, some inflammatory comments, blog posts, and tweets were exchanged. By having this agreement, it shows that both are ready to move forward, together. After all, every time Karl and Larry H. Miller has a disagreement, they made up and had a stronger relationship afterwards. This just makes me happy

Second, the Jazz announced the improvements to EnergySolutions Arena. The enormous video board, the scoreboards, and the improved sound system will give the fans an even better experience. For years, a replacement for the outdated Jumbotron was amongst fans’ biggest requests and complaints. What the Jazz are doing to ESA could exceed anyone’s expectations and hopes.

Third, Jerry Sloan too has returned in an official capacity: senior basketball adviser. A few years removed from those fateful two weeks that saw the Dean of Coaches and an All-NBA point guard in Deron Williams leave Salt Lake City, the former is back. His job description is interesting, as it focuses on scouting, but allows for ample opportunities to consult Tyrone Corbin and the coaching staff, as well as Dennis Lindsey and Kevin O’Connor on basketball matters.

Lastly, the way Lindsey, O’Connor and company have gone about the Draft process has been refreshing. The sheer amount of workouts has been remarkable, and I venture to guess that getting so many players in town is more complicated than it appears. Furthermore the 24-player free agent camp has Dennis Lindsey written all over it.

Now, some of these developments may not excite some, and the next two months will constitute the heart of the off-season. But what is happening is encouraging. The Jazz are being deliberate and intentional in what they are doing, drawing upon and connecting to the past, while ushering in a new mindset and era.

All eyes will be watching the way the roster unfolds (the question for most: are the Jazz going to fully embrace turning the team over to the young guys), but the last few weeks have reminded me: it is a great time to be a Utah Jazz fan.

Author information

David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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Comparing the Finals performances of Karl Malone and LeBron James (and some guy named Michael Jordan) http://saltcityhoops.com/comparing-karl-malones-and-lebron-jamess-finals-performances-with-some-guy-named-jordan-2/ http://saltcityhoops.com/comparing-karl-malones-and-lebron-jamess-finals-performances-with-some-guy-named-jordan-2/#comments Fri, 14 Jun 2013 15:35:59 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6567 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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LeBron James is having a rough go of the 2013 Finals thus far, game four withstanding—so much so that in post-game coverage, Magic Johnson said James “disappointed” him in his game three performance. It’s a sentiment Miami fans share, and it isn’t new to fans of James and the teams on which he plays.

To date, James is 8-13 in the NBA Finals, a .380 winning percentage. Not what one expects of a four-time League MVP; certainly not what one expects of a player who, at only 28 years old, increasingly gets mention in the possible greatest-player-of-all-time discussion.

Karl Malone would certainly love to be in James’s place, though. Two finals coming up short (and a third on the way, I suspect) must be easier to stomach with one ring already on the finger. That ring is the single biggest difference between the legacy of Malone and James, though Malone must also content himself with heading the best-at-his-position debate rather than the best-player-ever discussion.

James is a better player than Malone ever was. I think that point is unarguable. What may be much more debatable is that James has clearly proven himself better on the greatest of stages. But looking at their Finals numbers, that simply isn’t true.  (Statistics are accurate as of game 3 from this year’s series.)

  G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT%
LeBron James 18 43:00 8.2 19.0 .430 1.1 4.3 .247 4.2 5.6 .743
Karl Malone 12 41:30 9.5 20.1 .443 0 2 .000 5.4 8 .677
Michael Jordan 35 43:00 12.5 26.0 .481 1.2 3.3 .368 7.4 9.1 .806
  ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS    
LeBron James 1.6 7.3 8.9 6.9 1.5 0.6 4.0 2.2 21.0
Karl Malone 3.3 7.1 10.4 3.4 2.2 0.8 3.1 2.8 24.4
Michael Jordan 1.6 4.4 6.0 6.0 1.8 0.7 2.4 2.9 33.6

In his two Finals appearances against the Bulls (arguably a better team than any James has ever faced), Malone averaged more points and rebounds per game on a superior field goal percentage than James. James has posted the better percentage from the line, but he compromises that efficiency by chucking more than four threes a game while making only one. Both have admirable assist totals for their positions, but Malone’s defensive stats are better across the board.

Which player would you rather lead you into the championship round, assuming they continued to produce exactly the above statistics?  It’s largely a wash. All things considered, the numbers probably show Malone in a slightly better light given the defensive statistics. Even his winning percentage of .333 projects as practically identical to LeBron’s .380: each suggest your guy will only get you two wins in the series before you watch the confetti fall on your opponent.

Contrast both players to Michael Jordan (the guy who really does deserve to head the list in that greatest-of-all-time discussion).  Ten points or more better than these alternatives on superior shooting from all areas of the floor while chipping in six rebounds and six assists a game as well. Yeah, I’ll take that guy.

It’s sad, but Karl Malone’s Finals legacy is one of disappointment, if only because of the supreme standard he set as to his own performance, throughout his career and those seasons in particular. He wasn’t as good as we thought he could be and needed to be to earn that ring.  But how much of that legacy is due to his playing slightly less than his best against arguably the greatest basketball team ever assembled? How different would that legacy be if, instead of Jordan’s Bulls, Malone put up 24, 10, and 3 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, an extremely young team that folded under the pressure of the championship round against Miami and who might have done the same against Utah?

What if Malone had that ring without playing any better than he did?

Who knows. What I do know is that LeBron James has not been a better player than Karl Malone in the NBA Finals. So perhaps we should revisit our perception of a few legacies here. Karl Malone may not have shrunk under championship strain as much as some believe, while LeBron James is showing himself far, far from nearing a coronation as Greatest Ever, not as judged by the crucible of the NBA Finals.

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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The 7 Ways Karl Malone Could Change Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors For The Better http://saltcityhoops.com/the-7-ways-karl-malone-could-change-enes-kanter-and-derrick-favors-for-the-better/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-7-ways-karl-malone-could-change-enes-kanter-and-derrick-favors-for-the-better/#comments Wed, 05 Jun 2013 15:44:02 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6430 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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Welcome Coach Karl!  Or maybe it’s Periodic Expat Demi-coach of a Largely Undesignated Nature and Frequency Charged with Development of Players 6’8” and Taller (preferably far, far away from the press) Karl, but hey, potato, potahto, our boy’s come home!

Whatever else comes of this adventure, it is good to know Greg Miller and Karl Malone have gotten past the difficulties of the last few years.  The Mailman’s estrangement from the Miller family, and consequently the much wider Jazz family, could never be acceptable to any party.  He is too much a part of our team, and that team will always be a significant part of who Karl is as well. That he’s back “on the team” is good news.

The implications for the development of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and possibly other Jazz players are far less simple to sum up.  I love Karl Malone and always have, though that love has sometimes carried a legitimate component of frustration, resentment, and bitterness.  In this, I think my feelings about Malone are shared by a large number of Jazz fans, and for good reason.

Karl Malone was a great, great player, one of the best ever.  He was also sometimes erratic in attitude and speech, confrontational (including with people within his own organization), and, at times, selfish.  I think Malone would readily admit to these negative marks in his past.  While his glorious playing days are past, there is real question whether the same can be said of the distracting idiosyncrasies and vagaries of his personality. In turn, that forces one to wonder just what caliber of coach he can be.

I don’t think anyone can confidently answer that question—not the team CEO and Owner Greg Miller; not Jazz Head Coach, and former teammate of Malone, Tyrone Corbin (who apparently played a role in instigating the current arrangement); perhaps not even the Mailman himself.  The demands on a coach are very different from those of an elite player, including in comportment and ability to communicate.  How Karl Malone the player will transition to Karl Malone the coach/consultant is something I expect all Jazz fans will monitor with interest.

But with some questioning what virtues the Mailman brings to the table as a coach and already predicting a scandalous end to this experiment, I decided to share a few areas where I feel Malone really may produce tangible results in his work with the team’s young bigs.

1. Fitness and Conditioning

Malone changed the way NBA players approach fitness and conditioning, perhaps more than any other single player.  He logged 53,479 minutes of regular season game play, or 891.3 hours, or  37.1 days, or roughly a month and one week straight of full court basketball against the greatest athletes in the world, full out, at all times.  People still marvel at what his body was capable of enduring.  That body was a product of work, and his game a product of that body.  Thus, for Malone there was no separating in-game performance from training, both in-season and off-season.

In an interview with Muscle and Fitness, Malone said, “I will tell… anyone who cares to know that my conditioning in the off-season was what allowed me to play so many games, because I didn’t let my body get out of shape. It was harder than my in-season training. I knew once the season started, all I had to do was maintain. If I didn’t lift weights, I don’t think I would’ve had the career I had. Matter of fact, I know it.” But it wasn’t just about the weights.  Add in running up hills with a parachute attached to your back and the other insane exercises in Malone’s repertoire, and the result is a program of self-inflicted agony greater than any basketball game could possibly match.

In his work with players, on court exercises and drills will rarely, if ever, be completely separate from fitness level.  Malone will push for greater strength and speed and balance constantly, because that is the only way he knows how to approach the game.  Stephen Jackson, who went on a New York hip-hop station and declared he never worked out in the off-season his whole career, would be killed by Coach Malone.  Really, dead.

Assuming Favors and Kanter want to remain alive, working with Malone will provide them a constant, blunt, loud reminder that everything they do is dependent upon their bodies.  Both young players have elite physical attributes, and may well be tempted to coast on those natural gifts.  Not when they work with the Mailman.  Physically, both Favors and Kanter are more likely to squeeze every ounce of superiority they have out of their bodies with Malone there periodically demanding that of them.

2. Playing Hurt

In his 18 seasons with the Jazz, Malone missed only 5 games for health reasons.  To do that, you live the old adage “you can play hurt but you can’t play injured”—except you find ways to play injured as well.

Professional athletes are neurotically competitive, as often as not, and any slight to one’s manliness or toughness simply will not stand.  Being around Malone is as likely to encourage rugged, play-no-matter-what mentality in young players as anything—especially because he is unlikely to appeal to his status as an “authorized consultant” or whatever to motivate hurting players.  He’ll just call them sissies to their faces (or likely terms less suitable for family sites such as this one).

Malone will be the crazy older brother, and that guy can get away with insulting your manhood where the authority figure that is the head coach can’t.  Being around Malone will toughen up players in a roughhouse, fraternal way likely to work well for men as young as Favors and Kanter.

3. Running the Floor

In the announcement on 1280 The Zone that broke the news about Malone’s hiring as an official consultant, Greg Miller shared a story about the Mailman’s first session with Derrick Favors.  Miller relayed that Malone told Favors his goal was to grab a defensive rebound and get to it John Stockton, then to beat Stockton up the floor to the hoop on the offensive end.

The story reminded me of a similar sentiment shared by Chuck Daly after he coached the Dream Team.  Daly commented that Malone and David Robinson amazed him because they might have been the fastest guys on the team as they got up and down the length of the court, just as fast or faster than the guards.

Whether beating every other player up the court or filling the lane as the trailer on break, Malone always ran hard trying to establish an advantage.  It’s certain he will expect the same from the players he works with.  This expectation, combined with the fitness level Malone will demand, could result in Favors and Kanter transitioning from the defensive to offensive ends of the court as quickly as any big tandem in the game.

4. Setting Screens and Running the Pick and Roll

Honestly, the best potential teacher of how to set screens would be John Stockton.  He had the tenacity of a congenital disease when picking off a man.  But as second options go, Malone is a fantastic one.  How many times did Malone anticipate Stockton’s motion, set himself in just the right spot at just the right angle, anchor and let Stockton run the defender into him, and stop any player in the league as if netted, trapped between those massive shoulders?

Malone knows both the technique of setting a quality pick and, perhaps even more important, the essential nature of the pick in basketball.  He’s more likely to have Favors and Kanter setting hundreds of screens than taking hundreds of jump shots, which will only set them apart as players more in this era of finesse, stretch bigs.  Nerlens Noel won’t be much of a defensive stopper when Kanter hits him with a Malone-grade screen.

Additionally, Malone is half of the pair universally acknowledged as the Masters of the Pick and Roll.  He knows both the theory and technique behind just about every option available to the screen setter in the pick and roll: slipping the screen in a dive to the basket; when and how to roll to the hoop after the pick; leaking out for a prime jump shot; resetting for a second pick in a different direction or with a change of angle; spacing the floor to help a player with a scoring advantage as a defense shifts in anticipation of the pick and roll.

If you wanted to give an NBA big man a PhD advisor on the pick and roll, it would be Karl Malone.

5. Offensive Post Positioning

Fans hoping Malone will help Derrick Favors develop a lethal go-to post move will be disappointed; the NBA’s second all-time leading scorer didn’t really have one himself.  What he did have was the ability to get and hold post position superior to just about anyone who ever played the game.  You don’t need the sky hook when you have your defender so out of position that his only choices are give up on the play or foul you.

Defenders in such positions ended up fouling the Mailman.  A lot.  7 times Malone led the league in free throws attempted; 8 times he did the same in free throws made.  He is the NBA career leader in both categories.  His 9,787 free throws made are 700 more than second place, Moses Malone, and nearly 2,000 more than third, Kobe Bryant.  His career 13,188 free throw attempts are 1,300 more than his nearest competitors, Moses Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, and Shaquille O’Neal, all in the 11,000s.

If Favors with his length and athleticism, and Kanter with his power and broad shoulders (very much like Malone), learn to apply anything of the advantage Malone created by grabbing and holding prime scoring position, their offensive games will benefit immensely.  Plus, there is a good chance some of Malone’s speed getting up shots in the deep post will rub off as well.  I don’t think it is unrealistic to believe that, if both young bigs learn well from the Mailman’s tutelage, they might average a combined 16-20 trips to the free throw line per game, should they stay together.

To put that in perspective, in the Lakers’s 2001-2002 championship year, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant combined for 18.1 free throw attempts (and 12 makes) per game.  If Favors and Kanter learn to establish and use post position at all like Malone, I think they might do as well or better, and it looks like neither of the two will be the substantial liability at the line that O’Neal was.  Imagine the Jazz getting between 12 and 14 points on average from the free throw line from these two players every game, because it’s plausible.

6. Defensive Positioning, Rebounding, and Anticipation

Malone made the All-Defensive 1st Team three times in three consecutive years (1996 – 1999), as well as the 2nd team once.  It’s revealing that his peak defensive years came at age 32-34, in which time he put up 1.4 steals and a mere 0.7 blocks.  Clearly, his defensive prowess did not stem from his athletic ability to protect the rim, and while he always had fast hands, his steals per game over his three All-Defensive 1st Team years were lower than Paul Millsap’s these past three seasons.

So where was his elite defensive prowess?  Defensive positioning ending with a defensive rebound.

Malone kept between his man and the basket whether the offensive player juked, used a burst of speed, or tried bullish power.  He was particularly apt at maintaining defensive position in the post, holding his spot while being backed down while keeping balance enough to react to sudden movement or a shot.

Like Dennis Rodman, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year with lower career tallies of steals and blocks per game than Malone, the Mailman kept himself in just about every play defensively with a good base, solid technique, and defending through to the rebound.  And the importance of his defensive rebounding can’t be overlooked: Malone posted a top ten defensive rebounding percentage in 7 seasons and established a strong career mark of 23.5%.

Finally, add anticipation to Malone’s defensive attributes.  Innumerable times he anchored himself on his wide defensive stance, squared his arm against a player trying to back him down, and timed the offensive player just as he moved into his shot, swatting the ball away.  His technique and position made this possible, but only because of his great ability to read a player’s action and anticipate, much the way great perimeter defenders watch the hips and core rather than feet or shoulders and so avoid getting juked out.

If Favors and Kanter add some of Malone’s solid positioning and anticipation to their natural skills, and if they defend to the rebound as he did, they should make a frightening defensive combo.

7. Post Passing

Malone was always a solid passer, but by the second half of his career he’d become elite at his position. In 7 years he dished out 4 or more assists a game, and 11 seasons he averaged 3.5 or better.  The only NBA forwards since 1980 with more seasons at that rate are Larry Bird (13) and Charles Barkley (12).

To put in perspective just how fine a passer Malone was, he had 8 seasons with an Assist Percentage higher than 20%, which is well above Gordon Hayward’s best season.  The guy could pass, particularly to cutters darting to the basket.  He knows where and when players make themselves available to a pass from the post, particularly in a system derived largely from that of Jerry Sloan.

Don’t be surprised if the coming years find Favors and Kanter rocking their shoulders in a face up and then hurling periodic darts to cutting teammates, a la the Mailman.

Conclusion

Whatever one calls it, will Malone’s “consulting” be the difference maker in Favors and Kanter reaching All-Star status?  Almost certainly not.  Will the young players pick up technique, values, and tricks in all of the above areas where Malone so excelled?  Probably not.  They are their own people and their own players, and very young in addition.  There will be a lot said and demonstrated that doesn’t stick—and, as has always been true of the Mailman, fiasco is always possible.

But some things probably will transfer, and those things will make Favors and Kanter better players.  Maybe Favors will learn to keep better defensive position and anticipate a defender, enhancing his ability to block shots without fouling, and pair that with uncommonly crisp passing on the offensive end.  Maybe Kanter will learn to sprint the floor like a madman, anchor a foot in front of the hoop, and not move until the ball or the defender is in the hoop.  Maybe they both earn reputations throughout the league for screening hard and often and on the border of legality; maybe they’ll even rack up some seasons of 82 games started.

Whatever they pick up, it will mostly be good, because Karl Malone still has the knowledge and passion of a truly legendary NBA star, and he’s one of the few that, without question, loves the Jazz and this state.  If his young students adopt some characteristics of the Mailman, it will be excellent news for every Jazz fan.

*Correction has been made to Karl Malone’s minutes played.

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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Return Delivery: Coach Mailman to Work With Bigs http://saltcityhoops.com/return-delivery-coach-mail-to-work-with-bigs/ http://saltcityhoops.com/return-delivery-coach-mail-to-work-with-bigs/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 18:38:37 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6358 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Enes Kanter will be working out with HOF PF Karl Malone. Can you imagine the possibilities?

Enes Kanter will be working out with HOF PF Karl Malone. Can you imagine the possibilities?

Just as one legend from the Utah Jazz’s glory days left the Wasatch Front, another announced his return to the organization.

Hall of Fame power forward Karl Malone is back in the fold. The NBA’s all-time second-leading scorer announced on his new (and old) employer’s radio station that he’ll be spending time developing Utah’s “stable” of talented young big men, starting this summer. This news comes days after Jeff Hornacek, whose first foray into coaching was a similar come-and-go skills coach gig that started in 2007, decided to leave for a head coaching job in Phoenix.

The move is a brilliant one for the Jazz, for all the obvious reasons and for a few less obvious ones.

Let’s start with the obvious. Any amount of time Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter get to spend with Malone working on their games is a positive. It’s unclear exactly how much time the Mailman will invest — heck, in the same breath as the initial announcement, he issued the caveat, “as schedules allow” — but it almost doesn’t matter. Let’s say it’s 30 minutes before Malone decides he’d rather be fishing. That’s a half hour of tutoring from a man who constantly and painstakingly refined his game to became one of the best NBA players ever.

Equally obvious is Malone’s gravitas in teaching big men how to play, especially relative to other Jazz coaches. You may not need to be 6’9″ and 250 to understand how to prepare a power forward for his assignment going into a game, but let’s be honest: Malone might have a few more tools and tricks close to the basket than, say, Sidney Lowe.

But the real reason this move is brilliant, and it borders on blasphemy for some fans, is that it allows Utah to kick the tires a bit on Coach Mailman. Nobody would even dare poke at his résumé where the game of basketball is concerned, but we don’t know what that means in terms of his ability to coach.

Here’s what we know about Malone’s skills as a player: he came in as an unprecedented combination of power and speed and then developed into a Hall-of-Fame worthy dominating force. He is the league’s second all-time leading scorer, third all-time Win Shares leader, a two-time MVP and 14-time All-Star.

Here’s what we know about his coaching skills: not much.

He was obsessive about preparing for opponents (that’s a positive for a prospective coaching candidate) and he was brash in addressing his teammates’ deficiencies, often times calling them lazy, fat, or both (not so positive).

It’s natural to assume that because someone was a top-tier player they’ll be a top-tier coach. Some of the same things that can make someone excel as a player are still required when you exchange the sneakers for a neck-tie: particularly the mental approach to the game, preparation and an understanding of Xs and Os. But history asserts pretty loudly that there are plenty of skills that don’t overlap.

In fact, I was curious to see how many of the top players in league history went on to be successful coaches. Of the top 25 players by career Win Shares, only five became head coaches, and usually with middling results. Only Larry Bird managed a winning percentage that was significantly above .500. The top players, historically, don’t make great coaches – if they become coaches at all.

Chart 1: Success rate of all-time great players as coaches

Superstars turned coaches

(It’s worth mentioning that even Russell’s coaching record is padded by the three full seasons he acted as a player-coach. If we start the clock on Russell only after his playing days were over, his record is 179-207 or .464.)

We find a similar storyline when we perform the inverse operation. I took the 25 winningest coaches (by regular season wins) and worked backwards to find out what type of playing career preceded their time on the bench.

Chart 2: Playing careers of all-time great coaches

Top coaches' playing careers

Eleven of the most successful coaches in basketball history never even played professionally (NBA, ABA or BAA). Of the 14 who did, Lenny Wilkens is the only one whose WS was even good enough to be in the top 100 all-time. Most of them – like contemporary giants Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan and George Karl – were effort & energy players at best.

Obviously, this only looks at head coaching records and doesn’t address the more important (but harder to quantify) question of how many past greats turned into great mentors/teachers for younger guys, which is really what the Jazz need from Malone to start. Still, there’s a strong message in the fact that seven decades of basketball history have produced a list of top coaches and top players that are almost entirely mutually exclusive.

The message: coaching NBA basketball and playing NBA basketball are different skills, and it’s entirely possible to be phenomenal at one skill set and mediocre at the other.

None of this means that Karl definitively does not have the skills to coach, only that we don’t know for sure and that it’s naive to assume he does simply on the basis of his playing career. But giving him a chance to make Utah’s young core better is exactly the way to find out. The same arrangement put Hornacek on a career path that has led him to a head coaching role. We don’t know where this path will take Malone, but I love that we get to find out.

If one of the hardest-working guys ever to play ball has demonstrated a desire to get his feet wet as a special skills coach, then he should get a shot. The career of Coach Mailman has just begun.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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