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Posts Tagged ‘Karl Malone’

Malone vs Garnett Feb-17-2003

Lost amid Wednesday night’s homecoming buzz for former Jazzmen Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko was the very real possibility that Brooklyn’s 105-99 victory over the Jazz could have been the final game Kevin Garnett ever plays in Utah.

The first time Kevin Garnett played a regular season game at the Delta Center, he came off the bench behind Sam Mitchell. His head coach at the time, Flip Saunders, boasted a coaching record that stood at 1-4 and not the 638-526 mark it does today. The leading scorers on his team were Tom Gugliotta, J.R. Rider and Sean Rooks.

Sound like nearly two decades ago? It was. Trey Burke was 3 at the time.

On that late December evening in 1995, a 19-year old KG scored 6 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Timberwolves. On Wednesday night, a 37-year old KG scored 6 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in 17 minutes.

While KG’s play and production has marginally decline for the past several seasons in Boston, this season it has fallen off the proverbial cliff to the point the Big Ticket is now obviously running on fumes.

My most fond memories of Kevin Garnett are the fierce battles he had against Karl Malone and the respect he showed for him. On January 19, 2000, KG scored a game-high 31 points in defeating the division-leading Jazz 91-88 at the Delta Center. Following the game, the 23-year old Garnett approached the 36-year old Malone and told the league’s reigning MVP he disagreed with the recently released All-Star voting, feeling that Malone deserved to be a starter and not himself.

The respect KG showed for the league’s greatest power forward continued ten days later in Minneapolis. Karl Malone surpassed the 30,000th point plateau, a milestone that was recognized by the Target Center’s public address announcer. As the T-Wolves fans offered their polite applause, Garnett waved his arms to exhort the crowd and Malone ended up receiving a standing ovation from the Minnesota fans.

Despite the dissimilarities in their styles and KG spending the first 4 years of his career at small forward, in many ways both players redefined the power forward position. Malone became the best to ever play the position by merging his relentless physicality and power with an elite scoring skillset. Garnett brought finesse and athleticism to go with remarkable dexterity and unbridled passion in showing the position could be played post-1980’s at an elite level despite a lack of broad shoulders and powerful frame. He’s arguably the greatest defensive power forward to ever play the game and represents the prototype for the ideal power forward in the new millennium.

The other similarity both Malone and Garnett shared is they played the game the right way – passionately and competitively – giving maximum intensity and effort at both ends of the court all toward one goal that wasn’t self-promotion but rather winning. They were old school with their toughness and their attitude, as KG brought some of the NBA’s 90’s nastiness into the new “hug and kiss” post Artest-melee league. Combined with an ability to score the basketball that few power forwards have ever possessed, when those two faced off they treated fans to battles that only augments the their legendary careers with the passing of time. Their meeting on February 17, 2003 is a perfect example.

A few of things to note:

  • First, their statlines. Garnett scored a game-high 34 points, to go with 10 rebounds, 6 assists 1 steal and 1 block. Malone scored 28 points with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Both were incredibly efficient, with KG shooting 13-22 (59%) from the field and 7-9 from the foul line. Malone shot 10-14 (71%) and 8-9 from the stripe.
  • Second, their effort. It was a 12-point game with a minute to play, and both Malone and Garnett show no hesitation in diving to the floor for a loose-ball. Malone was 39 year old. Garnett had dislocated a finger on his right hand earlier but still wedged his hand in while wrestling for the basketball (in the 3rd-quarter KG walked to the bench, sat down, looked away as the trainer popped it back in and then returned to the game).
  • Third, label this exhibit-Z why Karl Malone was a freak of nature. He was 39 years old and still capable of playing at this level. THIRTY-NINE! For as much as KG’s mind wants to play at a certain level, this season he is calcifying right before our eyes at age 37. Considering Garnett’s in his 19th season and has played over 48,000 minutes, that’s certainly expected but it just illustrates the absurd and unmatched degree to which Karl Malone defied Father Time, even in 2003 during his 18th season at over 52,000 career minutes.
  • Final Note: On Jerry Sloan’s technical, the urgency at which Jazz trainer Gary Briggs and assistant Gordan Chiesa moved to reel him followed by Jerry’s subtle wink and “I’m all right” assurance has a small backstory. This was only Jerry’s second game back since returning from a 7-game suspension for shoving referee Courtney Kirkland. Given that this was his first technical foul since and that it involved Violet Palmer, it’s apparent everyone on the Jazz was relieved the situation was diffused quickly.

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While some may prefer Garnett to call it quits as soon as possible, I have no problem with him playing until the well runs completely dry. Great players who have given so much to the game deserve to leave on their terms, not their fans’ terms.

Personally, I’ve always felt more closure when a great athlete retires well past his prime rather than during it. This was true as Malone limped to the finish line in the 2004 playoffs with LA and when Michael Jordan finished out his career in DC. They may not have been as good as they once were, but every once in a while they would come close and those games just felt magical – as if you were granted the gift to travel back in time to witness one final great performance as the curtain was lowering for good.

The end may be near for KG’s career, but that will in no way tarnish the brilliance of his illustrious career. And when Garnett is rightfully inducted into Springfield, it would be fitting if Karl Malone was the one to present him.

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Jazz at Nets 12-22-01

Despite playing only twice a season, the Utah Jazz have played many memorable road games against the Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets over the years. There was Andrei Kirilenko’s buzzer-beating tip in 2003. There was a 122-115 Jazz shootout in 1998 after which the Jazz were quickly ushered out of the arena following an anonymous death threat against Karl Malone. And of course there was Utah’s 103-92 road victory in 2008 that included a Jerry Sloan ejection – all of which took a backseat to the Carlos Boozer “I’m going to get a raise regardless” postgame quote.

No Jazz/Nets season series was more contentious than 2001-02. On November 21, 2001 – former Ute Keith Van Horn’s -game-winner gave the Nets a 91-90 overtime victory in a game that featured an on-court confrontation between Karl Malone and Nets head coach Byron Scott.

When the two teams met one month later on December 22nd, all eyes were glued to Malone and Scott who had since engaged in a war of words in the media. The Nets were 16-9 and on the way to their first NBA Finals appearance since the merger. The Jazz were playing the second game of a back-to-back and the 5th game in a 5-game/8-day roadtrip.

This time, Karl Malone and the Jazz had the last laugh winning going away 104-90. The 38-year old Malone dominated, scoring 25 of his game-high 31 points in the 2nd-half. At 39, Hall-of-Fame running mate John Stockton was equally brilliant with 15 points (on 6-9 shooting) and 10 assists. 4 Jazz starters scored in double-figures and the Utah bench combined for 34 points – sparked by Russian rookie Andrei Kirilenko. The 20-year old Kirilenko scored 14 points and notched 4 steals and 3 rebounds while his energy sparked Utah to a 31-18 2nd-quarter advantage. After the Nets pulled to within 5 early in the 4th-quarter behind Keith Van Horn’s game-high 24 points, Malone went on a tear scoring 15 of Utah’s 27 4th-quarter points.

While Malone and Byron Scott kept their distance, there were still fireworks in the final minutes of the game. On a fastbreak, Kenyon Martin essentially took a leaping close-fisted swing at Malone’s head while the Mailman was air-born going to the rim. Malone landed hard and Jerry Sloan raced off the bench ready to make Byron Scott’s November incident look like child’s play.

Although the officials and Jazz assistants managed to corral Sloan before he could get his hands on anyone, that didn’t stop a war of words from starting. Although KJZZ cameras failed to capture all of it, the NY Times reported Sloan “stormed the court and started yelling at Martin” while the Daily News wrotefurious Utah coach Jerry Sloan stormed onto the court and exchanged heated words with the second-year Nets forward as both had to be restrained.”

Martin would be ejected for a flagarant-2 while Malone further demonstrated his indestructibleness, getting up to shoot the free throws before finishing the game by scoring 4 more points in the final minute.

Following the game, the Jazz weren’t shy about voicing their displeasure of Martin’s play – which also included a similar foul when Martin violently striked Donyell Marshall in the head from behind in the 2nd-quarter.

  • Bryon Russell said there was “No doubt in my mind” that Martin’s foul was a cheapshot, while also hinting K-Mart may have been taking orders. When asked from who, Russell replied “I don’t know. Use your imagination.”
  • Our team has been considered a dirty team for a long time – and I don’t recall anybody going in a situation like that,” added Jerry Sloan.
  • Malone, when asked how many games would he be suspended had he been the one who committed the flagrant foul responded by saying ”Probably four or five games, at least.”
  • John Stockton of course took the high-road saying “He’s (Martin) the only one who can tell you if it was intentional.

The Nets rallied around Martin, with Jason Kidd saying “I think he was trying to make a play on the ball,” and Scott attributing it to “a lot of buildup with our guys, and Kenyon was frustrated.”

Nets rookie Richard Jefferson offered up the most laughable defense, saying “It was a hard foul that Kenyon put on him [but] I think there was a lot of acting. If you look at [the Jazz] they set hard screens and they want to flop every time you hit them. Karl Malone should be the last person to ever complain about a hard foul.” Strong words coming from someone who went scoreless in 15-minutes of play while shooting 0-2 and posting a +/- of -20.

Ultimately, Kenyon Martin was suspended for one game and fined $50k – on which then Nets president (and former NBA vice president) Rod Thorn embarrassingly complained, saying he felt the punishment was too harsh.

Nearly a dozen years later, we know the answers. Kenyon Martin has carved out a journeyman career as a thug who could could do little more than emphatically dunk a basketball and the NBA has heightened its punishment and enforcement to the point players nowadays don’t even come close to committing hard fouls resembling as bush-league as K-Mart’s.

Perhaps the best perspective on the foul came from Andrei Kirilenko’s post-game interview, where the 20-year old rookie said in broken-English that Kenyon Martin “should come and say he’s sorry, instead of coming and saying ‘F—‘ you.'”

Tonight the familiar faces of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Kirilenko will again be involved in a Jazz/Nets game. He may be a Net now, but Andrei Kirilenko will never feel like the opponent. And if that makes me a bad Jazz fan, please allow me to come and say I’m sorry, instead of coming and saying…well you know.

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The Utah Jazz are very happy to announce, that we’re going to bring a Mailman...”
-Frank Layden, June 18, 1985.

Karl Malone Pay It Forward - Jazzbasketball

It’s pretty incredible how those 15 words would begin a marriage between one person and one franchise that despite a few bumpy stretches is still intact and going strong 28 years later.

I’ve written extensively how Karl Malone could help Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter become better basketball players, but perhaps equally important are the ways Karl Malone could help Utah’s young players off the basketball court.

Karl Malone is his own man, who blazed many new trails on his way to becoming the league’s #2 all-time leading scorer and the greatest power forward in NBA history. During an 18-year NBA career he made Salt Lake City his home and became a foundation in the community. He lived out many of his dreams from being a truck driver, to professional wrestling, to owning a hunting cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. And he did it all while playing for the Jazz and living in Utah.

This is important because Utah fans have a deep-seeded fear of rejection from professional athletes. Perhaps starting with Derek Harper, further perpetuated by the likes of Miami residents Rony Seikaly and Carlos Boozer, and culminated in Deron Williams’ 2011 pre-emptive trade – Jazz fans have developed a phobia that great players will always want to leave Utah for brighter lights. There are already some fans who would prefer the Jazz land Jabari Parker in the 2014 NBA draft rather than Andrew Wiggins because of the notion that Parker’s faith (LDS) would make him more likely than Wiggins to embrace playing in Utah.

Presently Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are eligible to sign long-term extensions prior to becoming restricted free agents in 2014. Alec Burks and Enes Kanter will be in the same position next offseason, and Utah has just added collegiate player of the year and Ohio-native Trey Burke.

With Malone back in the fold, the Jazz now have someone who not only can teach how to establish post position and run lanes wide – but also to tell how an NBA player can embrace Salt Lake City as a home where having a successful professional career, starting a family, and gaining fame and notoriety is all within their grasp. Even Brooklyn star PG Deron Williams, regarded by some as a Jazz-villain, still makes Utah his home in the offseason.

Salt Lake City will never become a free agent hot-spot, but it certainly won’t hurt to shake the ignorant misconceptions that professional athletes don’t want to play there and Malone is a great spokesman for that.

2013-14 Utah Jazz

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Karl Malone wasn’t perfect – he could be moody, he spoke his mind sometimes to a fault and made errors in judgment – but he owned up to his mistakes. He did it all in the public eye, where he matured from the 22-year old rookie who arrived from Louisiana in 1985 to the 50-year old man who still flies in to Utah periodically for business.

While it came as a surprise to us all back in May that Jazz CEO Greg Miller had patched things up with Karl to the point that they were both willing to work together to bring Malone in as a bigman coach – it’s not surprising that the Mailman is throwing his (cowboy) hat into the coaching ring.

In February of 2011, one day after Hall-of-Fame head coach Jerry Sloan retired* (*was forced out), Karl Malone gave his word that he would honor Sloan’s career by passing lessons learned from Jerry on. Speaking with reporters at Energy Solutions Arena, Malone said “At some point in my life, I will carry [Jerry Sloan’s] legacy on in some form of coaching, and that’s a promise.”

From his lengthy phone interview on 1280 The Zone in May, Malone stated he not only wants to teach Utah’s bigmen how to play, but also how to give back. The concept of giving more than was given to you is something that Malone has touched on several times over the past 15 years. It was mentioned in his closing remarks of a 2001 Beyond The Glory documentary, reiterated the night in 2006 he had his Jazz jersey retired and again at his Hall-of-Fame induction speech in 2010.

Karl Malone made himself into a great player without the hands-on mentorship of a former great to guide him. Now he’s offering to share his knowledge, expertise and time to make the Jazz a better franchise.

Malone threw down somewhat of a gauntlet in a recent interview with Brad Rock of the Deseret News where he stated that “without a doubt” both Favors and Kanter have All-Star potential. “These guys have the talent to be as good or as great as they want to be,” Malone said. He had touted Favors earlier in the summer, saying “the skill set he’s got is absolutely unbelievable.”

That statement along with Malone’s comments back in May and tutorials that include a summer trip to Louisiana as well as recent post-practice lessons with the Mailman back in Utah all make one thing obvious:

Karl Malone is not only challenging them to be the best they possibly can be as players, but also as people – and that’s something we all should strive for.

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To close, it’s important to remember that while it’s completely unfair to expect Trey Burke to be the next John Stockton or Favors and Kanter to be the next Karl Malone, there are a lot of things that can be taken from Stockton and Malone as both athletes and people that can help young players maximize their potential. Burke, Favors and Kanter all are different athletes with their own styles, games and personalities – but having two of the best ever to help teach them should have nothing but positive affects over the next few seasons.

28 years after they first became Utah Jazz teammates, Stockton&Malone are still helping the Jazz organization try to achieve greatness – along with Jerry Sloan. That famed trio never won the elusive ring they sought year after year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have an effect on the Jazz one day competing for a title in the future. Never underestimate those guys – they’re pretty special.

John Stockton Karl Malone Jerry Sloan #1

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Karl Malone - Happy 50th Birthday

KARL MALONE CARD GIVE-AWAY

In honor of Karl Malone turning 50 today, I will be giving away 50 FREE Karl Malone basketball cards.

Karl Malone Basketball Card Giveaway

They will be broken down into 16, 17 and 17 card lots for a total of 50 divided amongst 3 different winners.

Tonight at 5:00 PM MT (7:00 PM ET), 7:00 PM MT (9:00 PM ET), and 9:00 PM MT (11:00 PM ET), I will be posting 3 Karl Malone trivia questions here at Jazzbasketball. The first person to answer each question correctly in the comment section wins.

Requirements: Must have valid email address and respond to my email with a mailing address within 48 hours. Limit 1 card set per person.

7 DAYS OF MAILMAN APPRECIATION

Today wraps up a week-long marathon of Jazzbasketball Karl Malone content. Here are quick-links to the past 7 days of Malone posts and videos.

THE ULTIMATE POWER FORWARD

Low-Post Scoring
Perimeter Shooting
Individual Defense
Running The Floor
Passing
Pick&Roll Ability

MALONE MEMORY LANE (Youtube Videos)

42 Points at Lakers – 1997 Conference Semifinals – Game 4
1998 Family Life of Karl Malone
1999 Karl Malone on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
41 Points at 76ers – 12/20/00
2001 Karl Malone cooking on The Food Network
2002 Karl Malone and John Stockton Feature

HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY KARL!

Karl Malone is the primary reason I became a Utah Jazz fan. Growing up I knew both Karl and John Stockton were great players, but it wasn’t until my teens that I truly appreciated Stock’s greatness at the same level of Malone’s. Initially Karl’s ability to score with grace and power is what drew me in and for most of my life was my favorite professional athlete to follow. Growing up I would record Jazz games, study Karl’s moves and then go out in my driveway and practice them over-and-over. I know his game inside out and as a result have nothing but admiration and appreciation for his ability, his effort, his work ethic and his competitiveness.

Above all, Karl Malone was human – and in my opinion a good one at that. We aren’t drawn to professional athletes because they’ve made perfect decisions throughout their lives – we’re drawn to them because of their athletic abilities and talents. Karl made mistakes, as we all do. However he owned up to them, remained true to himself, was extremely generous with both his time and money, and perhaps most importantly – he was real. You knew that what you saw was who he was – that was something we could all relate to.

Michael Jordan certainly isn’t any great philanthropist, but he was a once-in-a-generation talent and ESPN dedicated seemingly an entire week in February for MJ’s 50th birthday. Growing up I admired Karl Malone (still do), and it’s been a pleasure to spend the past week compiling and sharing my appreciation of Karl Malone.

Without him, there would certainly be fewer Jazz fans out there.
Happy birthday Karl, the greatest power forward to ever play the game. I know Malone’s caught plenty of fish, but he’s the one who hooked me on the Utah Jazz – and I wouldn’t trade them for any other team in the world. Along with John Stockton and Jerry Sloan, Karl made the Utah Jazz into a truly great franchise. Now as he works with Utah’s promising young bigs, let’s hope he can help make them great once again.

Karl Malone

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Karl Malone - The Ultimate Power Forward

This is Part 6 of “The Ultimate Power Forward” series, detailing several of the key components that made Karl Malone the greatest power forward to ever play the game.

For all of the diverse offensive skills (which have been covered extensively here over the past week) Karl Malone possessed that helped make him the second-leading scorer in NBA history, perhaps no play became as synonymous to the Mailman scoring than the pick-and-roll.

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about Karl Malone running screen-roll without mentioning his Hall-of-Fame pick&roll partner: John Stockton. Together, Stockton&Malone put on nearly a two decade-long clinic of how to run the pick&roll. Any type of defense they faced within the rules, they would counter and execute. It starts with Stockton, who had supreme court vision, the ability to pass accurately and quickly (thanks to his ability to pass off the dribble with one hand rather than two) and was an excellent shooter off the bounce. Malone always set a rock solid screen and combined his mobility, great hands and supreme ability to finish with both power and skill around the basket – was the ultimate finisher. Together, Stockton&Malone were simply unstoppable on the pick&roll.

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Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #1a

In traditional side-screen roll, Stockton’s first read is always to go middle behind Malone’s screen – whose own read was to roll to the basket if the weakside help doesn’t come, or “pop” out on the baseline for the jumper if the help-defense rotates to shut off the paint.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #1b

Here Malone’s man shows out on Stockton and the weakside help is slow. Malone rolls unimpeded to the rim and skillfully finishes over Kobe who is late in his rotation.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #2a

On this play, the Chicago Bulls force the pick&roll baseline (a defensive staple of Phil Jackson coached teams). Utah counters with Malone simply re-screening to allow Stockton to drive baseline. This forces Malone’s man to help on Stockton and allows Karl to turn and roll uncontested to the rim.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #2b

Chicago’s weakside help defense is slow to react and Malone has a wide-open lane to drive for the hammer dunk.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #2c

Here in the same situation, Chicago’s help-defense reacts to clog the lane. As a result, instead of rolling – Malone simply pulls up from the elbow and drains the open 18-footer.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #3a

Here against Houston, Stockton’s man decides to go under on the screen so Stockton knows he’ll have a clean look from the foul line area if the big doesn’t show out.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #3b

The Rockets choose to stay with the screener (Malone), so Stockton simply pulls up and hits the open foul-line jumper.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #4a

After playing together for 10+ seasons, Stockton&Malone developed a sixth sense for knowing when to slip the screen. Here, they again show their standard side screen-roll.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #4b

Instead of setting the screen, Malone slips right to the rim. Because Stockton could pass so well off-the-bounce, his trademark one-hand pass right by his defender’s ear leads Malone perfectly and the Mailman makes an excellent one-handed catch on the move and promptly finishes strong at the rim for a three-point play.

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As Doug Collins said, “Whatever you show them, they counter it.” In the 90’s most offenses in the NBA were based more on isolation and post-ups than predominantly screen-roll. Now in 2013, with rule changes virtually every successful team relies on running the pick&roll to some degree of success. Guards are taught the nuances of the play at much earlier ages, and come into the league more skilled in that area. Nevertheless, the pick&roll bar set by Stockton&Malone has yet to be eclipsed. They did it longer, better, and more proficiently than any other duo in NBA history. Everyone knew it was coming, and they still couldn’t stop it.

Stockton and Malone PickandRoll #1

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Karl Malone - The Ultimate Power Forward

This is Part 5 of “The Ultimate Power Forward” series, detailing several of the key components that made Karl Malone the greatest power forward to ever play the game.

Karl Malone not only made himself into a versatile scorer, he made himself into one of the best passing bigs in the game.

Despite the fact that much of Utah’s offense ran directly through Karl Malone (in both the high-post and low-post), the Jazz were still able to move the ball beautifully and keep everyone involved. That is a testament to Utah’s system which utilized Malone’s offensive presence to create a deadly combination that coupled constant off-ball movement with the Mailman’s deft passing ability.

Guard Split #1

1. After feeding Malone in the post, Utah’s perimeter players stayed in motion. Here Utah runs their split-action with #34 Chris Morris feeding the post, then setting an off-ball screen for Howard Eisley (circled). This forces the opponent to switch, with Kobe Bryant (red arrows) showing out on Howard Eisley. Morris sets the screen then slips to the basket.

Guard Split #2

2. Because Morris is coming ‘up’ to set the screen, he already has a positional advantage on the switch so all Malone has to do is lead him to the rim.

Guard Split #3

Karl Malone makes a perfect pass to Morris for a layup. Because teams now had to pay attention to Utah’s off-ball action, this in turn slowed down double-teaming and gave Malone more room to operate in the post.

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Another staple of Utah’s low-post offense was the hard baseline cut by the post-feeder.

Karl Malone baseline cut 1a

Here, Chris Morris enters the ball to Malone, then makes a hard V-cut along the baseline.

Karl Malone baseline cut 1b

Morris’ man gets caught top-side which gives Malone and Morris an uncontested dribble-handoff.

Karl Malone baseline cut 1c

As a result, Morris is the recipient of a wide-open layup.

As with virtually everything in basketball, the defense will react and it is up to the offense to counter – and Malone and the Jazz did just that.

Karl Malone baseline cut 2a

Here, the post defender (#40 Kurt Thomas) sags back to take away the hard baseline cut. This causes Thomas to lose contact with Malone in the post and provides plenty of airspace for Malone to pivot and hit his patented turn-around jumpshot. This is a great example of how the passing ability of a low-post scorer actually creates a shot opportunity instead of the other way around.

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Karl Malone averaged over 4 assists per game seven times during his illustrious career, and his ability to pass the basketball not only made his teammates better – it created even more offensive opportunities for himself.

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Karl Malone - The Ultimate Power Forward

This is Part 4 of “The Ultimate Power Forward” series, detailing several of the key components that made Karl Malone the greatest power forward to ever play the game.

After changing ends of the court to breakdown Karl Malone’s outstanding defense, let’s examine how the Mailman changed ends of the court by running the floor harder, faster and more consistently than any big man in the history of the NBA.
(Recommendation: As you watch this video, don’t “ball-watch.” Instead focus on Malone and note how hard he runs and how many opposing players he glides passed en route to the basket)

Most bigs will run hard only when they begin a possession with a positional advantage against their opponents’ transition defense. Karl Malone ran hard regardless of his starting point – and as a result ran himself to easy baskets simply by blowing past multiple defenders (and teammates) on his 94-foot sprint to the rim.

Karl Malone running the floor #1a

1. Here, Malone is further away from Utah’s basket than all 9 other players on the court when Utah gains possession.

Karl Malone running the floor #1b

2. Nevertheless, Malone gets a step on Scott Pollard and then blows past Chris Webber and two other Kings en route to a layup and 3-point play opportunity as Pollard arrives just in time to foul Malone but not prevent the basket.

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Karl Malone not only ran hard, but he ran wide – which is becoming a lost art in today’s game. The Jazz’s inability to covert 2-on-1 and 3-on-1 fastbreaks was maddening at times last season, and while most fans automatically blame the ball-handler for the failures, the players filling the lanes are often just as much at fault if not more so.

Similar to running an option or bubble-screen to both the boundary side and field sides in college football (wider hashes compared to the pro game), running lanes wide in basketball stretches the defense laterally by forcing them to cover all the entire width of the field. Not only does it create better passing lanes, it can also creates room for the point guard to attack 1-on-1 in transition when the defense expands outward.

Karl malone running wide #1a

1. Here, Utah takes possession with Malone in the center of the court. Rather than take the easy route and plod directly down the middle (the shortest path between two points is a straight line, right?) Malone re-directs toward the sideline.

Karl malone running wide #1b

2. Malone runs the boundary, creating as much separation from the ball (which should ideally always stay in the middle of the floor on a break) as possible.

Karl malone running wide #1c

3. This forces the lone defender back (Avery Johnson – circled) to guard virtually 40-feet with two Jazz players filling the lanes wide. Stockton hits Malone on the wing for an easy layup.

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One more example of “running wide” to help the passer and put extreme pressure on the defense.

Karl malone running wide #2a

1. Utah gets the rebound and rather than running a direct path to the Jazz basket, Malone veers out wide (about an extra 15-20 feet) to run parallel to the sideline.

Karl malone running wide #2b

2. This puts the lone defender back (Damon Stoudamire – circled) in a virtually impossible 2-on-1 situation, with a 25-30 foot lateral gap between the ball and Malone.

Karl malone running wide #2c

3. Because of Utah’s excellent floor-spacing on the break, Stoudamire is unable to play both the ball and the pass and Stockton has a clear passing window to hit Malone for the layup.

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With Karl Malone back tutoring Utah’s bigs on a part-time basis, I look forward to seeing how Utah’s big guys fill the lane in the upcoming season – especially since it appears to be a point of emphasis that Karl made clear in his radio interview the day he and Greg Miller announced the Mailman’s new role.

Karl Malone teaching Derrick Favors

(courtesy of Jazzfanatical)

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As the late Larry H. Miller often pointed out, Karl Malone not only ran hard to get easy baskets, he ran hard to set the tempo and punish his opponent.

Real observers of Karl will know that the real way he punishes an opponent is to get out on a fastbreak that they have no intenion of passing the ball to him, but his opponent doesn’t know that – so Karl will sprint down the court two or three times in succession – which to Karl is not that difficult but to most opponents – they can’t handle it …and they get to where it often renders them neutral on a couple of plays until they can [regain] their breath.” -Larry H. Miller, A First Class Life

Karl Malone was the best running big man in NBA history because he was not only relentless – but consistently faster, in better condition, and more aware of how to fill open lanes than his opponents. A lot of that is because Malone was a phenomenal athlete, but some of that can be learned and it would be awesome if a Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter can develop a similar understanding and mentality to punish their opponent not only with physicality, but with speed and cardiovascular endurance.

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