Malone calls NBA owners offer ‘fair’
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.— Karl Malone sees a settlement coming. He says the NBA owners have made a “decent” contract proposal that needs only to be tweaked before the season can begin.
His union director is not so sure.
“To me, I feel the deal is almost done,” Malone said before playing in a charity exhibition game won by his team 125-119 behind the fourth-quarter shooting of Tim Hardaway.
“Without a doubt, that deal (the owners’ offer) is fair. It just needs some minor changes,” the Utah Jazz star said. “I think the deal is decent.”
In fact, Malone thought the nine-page letter that arrived by overnight mail last Thursday and outlined the owners’ concessions was actually sent to him by the union. It wasn’t until he got to the last page and saw commissioner David Stern’s name that he realized the letter was from the league.
Union director Billy Hunter attended the game and did a double-take when informed of Malone’s comments. “Karl said that?” Hunter said.
Hunter said no new negotiations are scheduled between him and Stern. Sunday marked the eighth day since the last round of bargaining, and players continue to lose $50 million a week in salaries as the lockout drags on.
The sides are trying to divvy up about $2 billion in annual revenues.
If a deal isn’t reached soon, the entire season will be scrapped. Stern has steadfastly refused to say when it will be too late to save the season.
Malone thinks a resolution could come by Saturday.
“I don’t care if it’s 40 or 50 games. You all can call it a shortened season, but I still want a championship. And to me, a championship is a championship,” Malone said.
Saturday night’s game, put together primarily by agent David Falk, drew an announced crowd of 9,526 to the 12,000-seat Convention Center. All proceeds will be donated to charity, organizers said.
Hardaway scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, including five of his seven 3-pointers, to lead a comeback by the Red team.
“My `J’ is working. It isn’t going anywhere,” Hardaway said. “It felt good to show that we’re in shape and ready to play.”
Maybe Hardaway is, but Shawn Kemp isn’t.
Carrying around at least an extra 15 pounds (many observers said it ooked more like 30), Kemp struggled to dunk and was so winded at one point he airballed a foul shot.
“Oh, yeah, no doubt about it,” Kemp said when asked if he was overweight. “Fifteen pounds? No, not that much. But once we get back I’ll be all right. It doesn’t take me long.”
Patrick Ewing also looked a step slow as he shot 3-for-13, although he played without wearing a brace on his surgically repaired wrist.
Chris Webber had the best dunk of the night, a 360-degree slam punctuated with an openhanded slap of the backboard.
“My little brother would have gotten on me if I hadn’t dunked. So now I can go home to my family,” Webber said. “It gave us a chance to remember how much fun basketball is and how much we miss all this.”
Other notable efforts included Alonzo Mourning’s energy and enthusiasm, Reggie Miller’s tight defense shutting down Allan Houston and Tom Gugliotta showing no ill effects from an ankle injury that ended his season last February.
“I think it went good. It was better than your normal charity game,” Kemp said. “A lot of the guys looked good, and it was fun to be around them. When you haven’t played in a few months like we haven’t, it makes you more anxious to get back out there.”