A tumultuous season finally capsized and at once plugged the bleeding for the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
A season that began with promise and lofty expectations ended “not with a bang, but with a whimper.”
And it wasn’t a moment too soon.
Most fans spent their time with their butts cemented to their seats, backs leaning forward and with heads in their hands for the last few months of their NBA calendar.
The past, at times, looked brighter than the future.
Jerry Sloan was gone, riding his tractor towards the Illinois sunset on his own accord; Deron Williams was shipped out as a specially delivered and new toy for desperate owner Mikhail Prokhorov in New Jersey.
And the playoffs became a disdainful word towards the home stretch, which was plagued with injuries and change for new head coach Tyrone Corbin, a piece of the puzzle in his own right.
Somewhere in the heat of it all—the hearsay and speculation—the straight-shooting Karl Malone found time to further confuse angered fans by opening his mouth repeatedly about a team and a coach that he’d long been removed from.
On one hand, he acted like his connection with the Jazz was still strong, like he was still linked to the organization by a current and non-historic fashion of being the greatest Utahan of all time.
But when the aged start babbling about the old ways of doing things, it makes fans forget how long it’s been since the Mailman delivered anything to the organization that wasn’t purely words.
Even the words themselves betrayed the false sense of connection and modernity to the Utah Jazz. Malone admittedly found out about Sloan’s resignation via text message from his wife while en route to his deer farm in Louisiana.
That’s right, his deer farm. In Louisiana.
Had his connection not been ancient history and exaggerated, he would have known what was brewing all along. He would have known about “the insane running the asylum” before Sloan’s epiphany and the text message.
His frustration led to claims, saying that he would get to the bottom of it. But nothing ever emerged to the ears of fans. His words never burgeoned action and have long since been left on the table.
Malone even called out an anonymous individual on Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio on March 30.
But it was left at that: Anonymous.
Now, he is letting the past remain where it belongs: Tagging along Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams on a distant sunset.
Will Karl Malone get back on the Jazz payroll for the summer?
But there was something he said that should not simply be buried in the past because it addressed the future—his potential future with the Jazz.
He spoke of Jerry Sloan like a piece of fine art, an artifact and icon that the league had lost.
“I will,” Malone said, “without a doubt in my life make [Sloan’s] legacy a little longer.” He was referring to coaching and to the old style—the hard-nosed, "fight until I can no longer see you" style.
If he really believed that the crazies had taken over—meaning the players—he knows that Deron Williams is gone and that order has been restored even if the Jazz are missing the playoffs for only the fourth time since 1983.
Which means that he also knows about Derrick Favors, the 19-year-old kid who’s built like him and ready to be molded to whatever teacher is present. He knows that Favors is in large part the future of Jazz basketball.
But he needs a teacher and guide. He needs Obi-Wan Kenobi to his Anakin Sywalker; Plato to his Aristotle.
So if Malone wants to be the Mailman, talk forcibly like the Mailman and to have an actual connection to the Utah Jazz like the Mailman of old, he had better supply something more than anonymity and words.
He can lace up his Shape-ups this summer and get in the gym with Favors; he can be a teacher and get the Jazz back in tune one piece at a time.
Either he can be Karl Malone, the deer farmer in Louisiana. Or he can be the Mailman and deliver.