Malone scores 24, then talks of playing elsewhere


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Karl Malone walked out of the Utah locker
room and cast a suspicious glance at Jazz owner Larry Miller, who
was still giving interviews nearly an hour past the final buzzer.

Malone had just become aware that Miller publicly criticized him
prior to Utah's 95-92 victory over the Dallas Mavericks,
and he
certainly was wondering whether Miller was doing it again.

''I'll tell you what: I've never looked so forward to a decision
as this summer's,'' Malone said, openly discussing the possibility
of playing elsewhere next season after spending his entire 18-year
professional career in Utah.

Sports Illustrated reported that Malone's wife, Kay, plans to go
househunting in San Antonio and Los Angeles this June in
preparation for a possible move when Malone becomes a free agent
this summer.

Malone said Kay had already scouted a couple of cities.

''Since July of last year, the Jazz had opportunities to say
something they didn't. So for my wife to say she wanted to look at
other teams if I want to continue to play, God bless and go right
ahead. We'll make a decision as a family,'' Malone said.

''It's going to be their decision, ain't going to be mine. I'm a
professional. I can play anywhere. If they choose they want to go
somewhere else and I want to play, we'll do that.''

Malone's comments were some of his most detailed to date about
his thoughts on leaving the Jazz. He had 23 points, nine rebounds
and seven assists as Utah sent the Mavericks to their third
consecutive defeat.

Malone was quite surprised to hear that Miller was practically
calling him out publicly.

Before the game, Miller went on the Jazz's pregame show and then
met with reporters, saying this is no time for Malone's future to
be an issue with the Jazz heading into the playoffs for the 20th
consecutive season.

It's the latest in a series of public spats -- some small, some
big -- between Malone and Miller. And as in the past, this tiff was
an outgrowth of Malone's public musings over whether he'd ever

''I've put up with them. I'm not going to put up with them now.
If he wants to get into a (public shouting) contest, let's go,''
Miller said. ''To throw disruptive hand grenades is not right. It's
not fair to his teammates. It's not fair to the coaches. It's not
fair to the franchise. It's not fair to me.''

Responded Malone: ''That's interesting for Larry to say that.
We'll just wait and see.''

Andrei Kirilenko added 19 points, nine of them coming down the
stretch in the fourth quarter, and John Stockton had 17.

The Mavericks matched their worst slump of the season and
dropped two games behind San Antonio in the Midwest Division race.
Even a total of 17 missed free throws by the Jazz couldn't help the
Mavericks, whose slide comes after they led the NBA standings for
the entire season.

Kirilenko had Utah's final miss from the line with 7.1 seconds
left, giving Dallas a chance to go for the tie. But Nick Van Exel
dribbled the ball off his foot with Kirilenko defending him, and
the Mavericks never got off a final shot.

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 34 points. Raef LaFrentz added
21 and Steve Nash 19.

Although Malone had Utah's gaudiest stat line, the decisive
stretch was dominated by Kirilenko.

A dunk by Kirilenko and a putback by Kirilenko gave Utah the
lead for good, 80-78, and Kirilenko's 20-footer with 3:51 remaining
began a 7-0 run that gave the Jazz an 89-81 lead with 2½ minutes

Game notes
Michael Finley missed his 13th consecutive game due to a
strained hamstring. Mavs owner Mark Cuban said he expects Finley to
return Monday against Seattle. ... The teams split the season
series 2-2. ... Utah outrebounded Dallas 44-29. ... Greg Ostertag
grabbed 13 rebounds but missed all four of his free throws. ...
Utah's Matt Harpring had to leave the game in the first quarter
after getting his feet tangled up with referee Ted Bernhardt's. He
returned in the second period.