SALT LAKE CITY — It took a few decades, but John Stockton finally granted an interview on the nationally syndicated "Jim Rome Show" Tuesday afternoon.
Of course the former Jazz point guard is promoting his recently published autobiography, "Assisted," and he talked with Rome for 15 minutes on a number of subjects, including being drafted by Utah, his friendship with Karl Malone and other teammates, and not winning a championship ring.
Stockton said he was just happy to be drafted by anyone, but that it wasn’t hard to take a liking to Salt Lake City.
"As soon as we hit the ground, I had a chance to meet a couple of teammates and drive around and see the mountains," he said. "What a beautiful place to live and have my kids grow up for the next 19 years."
The Hall of Famer said he first met future teammate Karl Malone at the 1984 Olympic trials in Indiana. The next time they met was at the Hogle Zoo when he was showing Malone around town soon after the Mailman was drafted.
"He wasn’t very recognizable at that time and I certainly wasn’t and we walked all around the zoo unaccosted and enjoyed the day looking at the animals," he said. "We’ve been best of friends ever since. He’s a good man from a completely different area than I was and we both felt completely at ease talking to each other. It's a relationship I’ve been really proud of for the past 30 years."
Asked if his career was complete without winning a championship ring, Stockton replied, "Oh absolutely. I think I laid it all out there for 19 years and you don’t always achieve all the goals that you shoot for. Maybe if I’d won one, I’d think I’d accomplished something and my life would be over, but hopefully I’m looking ahead and thinking there’s bigger and better things I’m expected to do."
When asked about favorite teammates, Stockton mentioned Jeff Hornacek, Thurl Bailey, Mark Eaton, Ty Corbin and Marc Iavaroni and said, "I was pretty fortunate because it wasn’t a revolving door and we had a long chance to get to know each other. There weren’t a lot of earphones or cellphones and we had a chance to become friends. I have a lot of really close friends from those days."
On coach Jerry Sloan, Stockton said, "He’s hard-nosed, but he was also really fair. He showed a lot of trust in us out on the floor and always had our backs. If we didn’t play well, he took the blame for it and if we did play well, it was all us and not him. He was a phenomenal coach, a great man and a big mentor for me."
INJURY UPDATE: The Jazz will likely only have 10 healthy bodies available for action in tonight's season opener. Marvin Williams (Achilles) and Brandon Rush (knee) have returned to practice but aren't able to participate in full scrimmages yet.
"I’m definitely excited just to get up and down the court with the guys, going for contact," said Rush, who had knee surgery in January after injuring his ACL in the second game of the 2012-13 season with Golden State. "It’s been a year since I’ve been able to do some stuff like that. I feel like I did pretty great."
The Jazz will also be without backup center Andris Biedrins, who tweaked his ankle in Monday's practice. Rooke point guard Trey Burke gave away hundreds of tickets to the Boys & Girls Club, but he won't play in his first NBA game as he's recovering from finger surgery. Forward Jeremy Evans remains out with rotator cuff issues.
The Jazz haven't announced timetables for any of the players' returns.
"The training staff told me not to push it too hard, take it day by day," Rush said. "Don't rush anything, just be comfortable."
MADE OFFICIAL: The Jazz continue to negotiate with shooting guard Gordon Hayward, who can get a contract extension up until 9:59 MDT Thursday. But the Jazz have officially exercised team options for the fourth year of the rookie contracts for Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. The third-year pros are now inked through 2014-15 and will be eligible for extensions next offseason.
HIGH HOPES: Rush, who said he envisions a sixth-man role with his new team when he's back, looks forward to growing with this inexperienced squad. "We're still striving to make it to the playoffs. We know it’s going to take time. We've got young players. We’re just going to have to grow together."