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HOOP SCOOP
Marty Burns
April 28, 1997
The MVP race between Michael Jordan and Karl Malone has gone down to the wire, with the Malone train gathering steam in the final weeks. The Portland Oregonian surveyed 63 G.M.'s, coaches and player-personnel types, who gave Jordan the advantage, 37½ to Malone's 23½ But it's the media who cast the ballots, and in a recent Salt Lake Tribune poll of 30 of the 115 voters, the Mailman outscored His Airness 21-9. Malone is enjoying perhaps the best season in his 12 years in the NBA, but Jordan remains the game's finest player, and he carried the Bulls to 69 wins despite the team's numerous injuries and the lengthy suspension of Dennis Rodman. Are voters simply tired of penciling in Jordan's name every year? We'll find out when the winner is announced before the Finals start....
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April 28, 1997

Hoop Scoop

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The MVP race between Michael Jordan and Karl Malone has gone down to the wire, with the Malone train gathering steam in the final weeks. The Portland Oregonian surveyed 63 G.M.'s, coaches and player-personnel types, who gave Jordan the advantage, 37½ to Malone's 23½ But it's the media who cast the ballots, and in a recent Salt Lake Tribune poll of 30 of the 115 voters, the Mailman outscored His Airness 21-9. Malone is enjoying perhaps the best season in his 12 years in the NBA, but Jordan remains the game's finest player, and he carried the Bulls to 69 wins despite the team's numerous injuries and the lengthy suspension of Dennis Rodman. Are voters simply tired of penciling in Jordan's name every year? We'll find out when the winner is announced before the Finals start....

Suns guard Rex Chapman, who earned the minimum $247,500 this season and will be a free agent this summer, says he wants to play in Phoenix again next year. But if Kevin Johnson decides to return, the team won't have room under the salary cap to meet Chapman's demands. One solution: Chapman signs for less money than he wants next year, with the expectation that he'll be rewarded with a bigger contract later....

The Hawks sold out 17 regular-season home games, the team's most since 1987-88. But empty seats at the Omni aren't yet a thing of the past. At week's end Atlanta had thousands of tickets available for the playoffs....

After averaging just 47 games over the previous four seasons because of injuries, Warriors forward Chris Mullin appeared in 79 games this year, finishing with a career-high .553 shooting percentage, best in the league for players other than centers and power forwards. He'll be a welcome newcomer to some club in '97-98; Mullin, who has been with the Warriors his entire 12-year career, has expressed his desire to play for a contender, and Golden State owner Chris Cohan says he'll accommodate the veteran....

Who would have guessed John Starks would so fully embrace his role off the Knicks bench? The temperamental guard averaged 13.8 points in 26.5 minutes and is the front-runner for the league's Sixth Man Award....

Brent Barry, who had an up-and-down sophomore season as a Clippers reserve guard, recently dominated in a pickup game with the cast from the sitcom Boston Common. Joked Barry, "Maybe this will help me with my confidence."

...Sixers center Michael Cage is awaiting delivery of a $500,000, 45-foot custom-made bus with an extra-high ceiling, a marble floor, leather chairs, eight TVs and a satellite tracking system so passengers can watch their favorite TV shows while on the road. He plans to use the bus to travel the country with his family....

Sonics forward Detlef Schrempf missed three games recently with "testicular trauma" after taking a knee to the groin from Kings guard Mitch Richmond. The same week, Seattle Mariners reliever Josias Manzanillo suffered the identical injury when he was hit by a batted ball....

Top playoff seeds Chicago and Utah were one-two in the league in assists. They eschew the stand-around offense of many NBA teams in favor of a more wide-open, unselfish style. "The Bulls play smart, always moving the ball and finding the open man," says Malone. "Our team is the same way." A Bulls-Jazz Finals would be a fitting way to culminate the NBA's 50th anniversary season.

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