Miller Upset with Malone -- Again

Miller Upset with Malone -- Again

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Karl Malone can probably forget about an official welcome back from his former team.

Malone's contentious relationship with Jazz owner Larry Miller took a turn for the worse over what the Jazz intended to be a joke when Malone did not make the trip to Utah with the Los Angeles Lakers in January.

The Lakers visit the Jazz again on Monday, and although Malone is expected to remain sidelined by a knee injury, he made the trip for his first appearance in Utah as an opponent.

Malone did not speak to reporters or a handful of fans who waited for the Lakers outside the team hotel Sunday night. He said last week that as much as he'd like to return from the injured list against the Jazz, it was probably unlikely.

"I've waited for three months now. I can sure wait for another week," Malone said about returning to the lineup, which he had hoped to do before Monday. "I don't have any fish to fry in this right now. Everybody's waiting on me to say something crazy, but I'm just going to see what happens."

Malone has toned down his thoughts about the Jazz since he first learned of a skit that was performed during the Lakers' 93-86 victory Jan. 24. Two fake telephone calls to the Jazz mascot from someone mimicking Malone's voice and using some of the more colorful verbal combinations he's known for.

Miller played a part in the skit when he took the phone and hung up on the "caller."

Malone, who spent his first 18 seasons with Utah, was especially upset with a reference to teammate Kobe Bryant's pending rape trial.

"I guess it could be worse. I could be Ko...," said the fake caller, who stopped short of saying "Kobe."

"For them to put that out there about him, that's disrespectful," Malone said when he heard about the skit. "I will never, ever forgive them for this. No class at all."

Malone also publicly questioned the sincerity of several apologies from the Jazz, who were fined $15,000 by the league for the skit.

Miller, who has feuded with Malone plenty of times over contracts and speculation that Malone was leaving the Jazz -- which he eventually did -- felt Malone overreacted to the joke.

"I think you've got to have positives along with the negatives in a relationship. Lately he's been only negative," Miller said. "I've had it."

Miller told the Deseret Morning News that the Jazz did "cross the line" with the Bryant reference. He also said plans for a Malone statue outside the Delta Center may be up in the air because Malone hasn't returned to get measured for it.

Miller and Malone have always been able to mend their friendship after their squabbles, a large reason Malone stayed in Utah as long as he did. The greeting could be interesting Monday before Malone takes a seat on the Lakers' bench, directly across from Miller's courtside seat.

But Miller doesn't see a quick resolution to this feud.

"I don't need it. I put up with it for 19 years," Miller said. "There was good and bad. Now there's only bad."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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