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1997 Utah Jazz Finals Team Reunion Eve Bits

March 22, 2017
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Antoine Carr on today’s NBA players sitting out games: [Unless you’re playing for your national team during the summer], you should be playing. I mean, that’s what your contract is. You go out there and you play [82 games]. You do what you’re paid to do. I don’t remember a time where I could walk in there and go, “You know what? I’m a little bit tired today. I don’t think I want to play in this back-to-back.”

Adam Keefe on Jerry Sloan’s team rules back in the day: Jerry wasn’t a big fan of headphones on team buses or on the team plane. He liked guys that, had to interact with their teammates, so consequently, you know, when you’re on the team bus…[players] were conscious. They were present with their other teammates, which I think was important.

I think that, you know, one of the biggest rules were, you know, don’t mess up. Like, don’t be that guy. There was no fine system. The other teams had fine systems. We didn’t have a fine — because people weren’t late. People showed up on time. They left early. They planned around contingencies to make sure they weren’t late, that they didn’t let their teammates down.

And you know, really, I attribute it to Jerry kinda running that show, but also having guys like Karl [Malone] and John [Stockton] and Jeff [Hornacek] that didn’t expect special treatment. Like, I’ve been on other teams where the rule was “Don’t be late unless you’re one of these two guys.” You know, those two guys could be as late as they wanted to. You know, in Utah, that didn’t fly.

Chris Morris on Karl Malone’s MVP season: That was the year Mailman was making his run and putting in the work, and no time off or anything like that. It just made us even work harder too, just to see him, that he’s never taken a day off and, for 18 years, and you know, and that’s a long time without taking a day off.

Morris on what it was like playing for Jerry Sloan: He was a tough nut to crack, man. But I think he put a lot of discipline in what we did…The main thing was that he held everybody accountable, you know, on their play, and how they could be that focal point of winning or losing a game.

Morris on the current Jazz team: They still play the way we played, old school…Hopefully, we* can start shooting better consistent shots. Right now, the bench gotta get a little more stronger of being consistent to be able to give the starters some much-needed time to rest, by being consistent. That’s the main thing. That’s the only thing that’s missing right now, is bench play that can be more consistent, to get their time in as well to help win the games.

* “We.” ♥

Morris on today’s NBA players sitting out games: This is a [new] generation…Coaches and organizations don’t want their star players to get hurt, but thing about it though, Karl Malone been a star player for 18 years, and I seen Stockton come back in a game from a small injury, as well as Karl, from where he tore a tendon in his finger and still came back out and played. Didn’t even miss a beat. But this day and age right now — I’ll take the old days over the new days.

Greg Ostertag on how closely he keeps tabs on the Jazz nowadays: I do keep up with the Jazz now a little more than I did in the past. I don’t watch a lot of NBA basketball ’cause I don’t, it’s just, I don’t enjoy the style of play that’s played nowadays…I keep up with them because I consider myself a member of the Jazz family forever. Just the way I feel, and so, and I’m happy for them.

I’m glad they’re getting back to where they’re being competitive in the West, and o–you know, other than Quin [Snyder]’s bad haircut, he’s done a good job with them getting them, you know, getting them back into, to the point, to the middle of, you know, playing for the Western Conference title…as long as they can keep their core together.

Ostertag on frequently butting heads with Jerry Sloan back in the day: I was the turd in that situation.

Bryon Russell on a season of dominance: I wanna say that year we lost three home games that year? I believe it was three games, and I mean, we were whupping some butt. I mean, that comes with training with Karl all summer. You know, the whole team stayed back, and you know, that altitude, it was like, once we got down to sea level, it was running by everybody. And it worked. And kudos to Karl for making us all stay to work out.

Russell on what summer workouts with Karl Malone were like: It was rough. I mean, it was work, work. I thought I was a pretty good workaholic kind of guy. When we trained with him, it was like an animal in a cage. Just wild, and it was nonstop. And I was like, man, can I get a break? “No, you’re too young to get a break. Come on. Come on, boy. Come on.” I mean, we was doing the hills. We was doing biking. We was always like, oh man, you gotta be kididng me. But it paid off.

Russell on team chemistry: The downtime was great time. We pretty much spent, like, we were on the road, the whole team would go out and eat. There wouldn’t be no cliques here, no cliques there. There would be one big group…We were a team that pretty much knew what one through 12 can do, and everybody played their role to the best.

Russell on his relationship with Jerry Sloan: He was the best NBA coach that coached Bryon Russell. Better than Phil [Jackson], better than George Karl, better than Doug Collins and et cetera. He really stressed what I was good at, and that’s defense…He taught me a lot, and I learned everything that he dished out, and I was one of his better guys.

Russell on John Stockton: He would get the ball to you at all cost, and it was times where Stockton would pass up a layup to pass it out to me, and I’m like, “Stock, two points is two points.” “Dammit, I’m giving you the ball. You better shoot the ball.” …

His vision was incredible. You know, han–his hands was bigger than mine, and I’m 6-7 and he’s 6-1. So, I mean, anybody that says he’s not the top two [point guards along with Magic Johnson], something’s wrong.

Russell, asked did Michael Jordan push off: Of course he did…You know the thing he told me? He’s like, “You was off balance. That’s why I got away with that.” I’m like, “Mike, come on. You wasn’t not even a step faster than me, and I wa–I didn’t have the ball.” … He’s always been a great guy to me, and I’ve always respected him and I’ve always said he was the best player in that era, and I liked guarding the best.

Russell on who would win a matchup between the 1997 Utah Jazz and the 2016 Golden State Warriors: Oh, man. We’ll smash them. I mean, all of this Steph Curry running around — getting posted up. I mean, Klay [Thompson] — getting posted up. Who’s gonna guard Karl? [Could Draymond Green guard Karl at all?] Absolutely not. No. That tough ball he’s playing right now wouldn’t work in our era. Very few guys that’s playing now I don’t think could play in the era of the 90s, because it was more physical.

I mean, you have guys sitting out for rest now. If Karl would’ve sat out for rest, or anybody — Jordan would’ve sat out for rest, you would’ve had a fit. I mean, people paid to see us play. Not to knock anybody, but you know, some of these stars go to towns, and you know, kids come to see them play, and they sit out the game ’cause they wanna rest. I mean, we didn’t rest. But it’s a money-driven league now, so you gotta do what you gotta do.

Russell, asked if he enjoys today’s NBA: Absolutely not. I mean, I just think it’s not like what it used to be. I think everything is for money now. It’s not about the love of the game. And when we played, I could’ve played for free because that’s how much I loved the game of basketball. And I’m pretty sure a lot of others who would tell you the same thing in the 90s and the early 2000s.

Russell on Vivint Arena: I’m always gonna say Delta Center, because that was the place where we had that thing rocking.

Russell, asked would Gordon Hayward get small forward minutes on the ’97 team: No. He would have to try to get it from Hornacek.

Russell ends his interview with: Let’s go Jazz. Let’s kick some New York Knicks ass.

Kenny Natt on Jerry Sloan: Jerry projects an image that, of toughness, but Jerry’s a very kindhearted and loving guy. He’s always been that way, and again, it’s those type of lessons that you realize and you s–you noticed how these marquee players all the way down to the last guy on the bench, everyone gravitated to him, appreciated him and the tough image that he projected.

But at the same time, everyone realized that it was all about love with him. And I don’t know of any other coach out there that gives it like that. I mean, Jerry’s a — project that tough image, as I said, but again, he’s a softie-softie. And if Jerry’s listening, I know that you are. Everyone knows you are, those that was with you every day. We know just how soft you were, Jerry.

Kenny Natt, asked how real the stories of Stockton and Malone playing with ankle/elbow sprains the size of grapefruits were: Very real. Those were the types of things that those guys projected every day. I mean, they played through injuries. That was one of the things that they were really conscious about. It’s amazing how they were conscious about not letting the opponents see them, any weakness in them in any way. Those are things that I remember — tape it, hide it, whatever you have to, just get me back out there. I don’t want anyone to underst–to see that I’m suffering in any way, or whatever.

But they played through everything, and they were two of the leading guys that I’ve ever seen in regards to taking care of themself, not only during the season, but even off-season, and it showed in their career, in their career longevity. So, those are the things that I remember. Just get me back out there and let me play.

And even in practices, you would think that they’d want to sit out, right, playing so many minutes and things of that sort. But they would never, never take those days off like that. And that’s, it’s, it showed in the energy of the team, because the other guys picked up on that and they also fought through injuries and things of that sort. So, the expectation was put in place, but it all started from the top with Jerry on down, through Phil [Johnson] and the rest of the guys.

Craig Bolerjack to Kenny Natt, UDQM: Just looking back at how special that “staff” was, you guys had, and how you pulled it off. I mean, you have to look back sometimes with a big f–smile on your face.

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