John Stockton helped turn the Utah Jazz into a perennial playoff team. He must be proud to seem them doing fine without him.
One of the best point guards in NBA history will have his number retired when the Jazz honor Stockton during Monday’s matchup with the New Orleans Hornets.
A halftime ceremony at the Delta Center will feature Stockton’s No. 12 jersey retired in a city where he spent his entire 19-year career. The NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals retired after the 2002-03 season, having helped the Jazz reach the playoffs in every season of his career and make two trips to the NBA Finals.
“We are excited to honor John in this special way,” Jazz owner Larry Miller said upon making the announcement in September. “We look forward to hosting him and his family on Nov. 22. The evening will certainly be memorable.”
This will be the sixth number retired by the Jazz as Stockton joins coach Frank Layden (No. 1), Pete Maravich (No. 7), Darrell Griffith (No. 35), Mark Eaton (No. 53) and Jeff Hornacek (No. 14).
Known for his unselfishness on the court and selflessness off it, Stockton surely is happy to see Utah having success after many thought the team would struggle following his retirement and Karl Malone’s departure via free agency.
With a roster full of unheralded players, coach Jerry Sloan led the Jazz to the playoffs last season and has them with the fifth-best record in the Western Conference this season.
While it’s been tough to fill Stockton’s shoes, offseason addition Carlos Boozer has been doing a good Malone impression.
Boozer has averaged 25.2 points and 10.8 rebounds over the last five games. His 20 points and 11 boards led the Jazz to a 92-79 victory in Atlanta on Saturday to finish their four-game road trip at 2-2.
Boozer has gotten plenty of help from the other forward spot.
Andrei Kirilenko had 11 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks and seven assists Friday. He’s leading the NBA with 4.67 blocks per game.
“I feel like we are starting to understand,” Kirilenko said. “We are doing a good job with our motion offense as well as distributing the ball and that’s why we are scoring inside.”
Not much is going right for New Orleans, the West’s lone winless team.
The Hornets, missing injured starters Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn, are off to the worst start in franchise history. They have lost six games by eight points or fewer, including Saturday’s 99-94 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Everything goes good for other teams that play against us and nothing goes good for us,” Hornets forward P.J. Brown said. “I don’t think anyone in this locker room has ever been through what we’re going through right now. It’s kind of unexplainable.”
Things might not get better any time soon for the Hornets, who are opening a five-game western road trip before returning home to face Sacramento and defending champ Detroit.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 20): Hornets - 5th place, 7 GB, Southwest Division. Jazz - 2nd place, 2 GB, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Davis, 24.6 ppg and 8 apg; Magloire, 8.5 rpg. Jazz - Boozer, 22.2 ppg and 10.3 rpg; Arroyo, 5.8 apg.
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
LAST MEETING: March 31; Hornets, 89-76. At Salt Lake City, Giricek led the Jazz with 19 points as the Hornets won for the fourth time in their last five trips to Utah.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hornets - 0-2 on the road; Jazz - 3-1 at home.