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Malone Gets His Kicks in Playoffs

May 8, 1998

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ David Robinson is tired of being kicked around by Karl Malone.

San Antonio’s Robinson has taken exception to the Utah Jazz forward’s unorthodox running jump shot, which involves kicking his legs out in front of him as he releases the ball.

``I think that’s one of the more dangerous things a guy can do, and I have a problem with that,″ Robinson said. ``I’ve been kicked before, and I don’t like it.″

Malone’s kicking motion was a topic of controversy after each of Utah’s wins in the first two games of their Western Conference semifinal series. Malone used the technique to get open for critical shots late in each game. Game 3 is Saturday in San Antonio.

In Game 1, Malone kicked before hitting what turned out to be the game-winning jumper with 1:12 left. Two days later, Robinson was kicked again at a critical point in Utah’s 109-106 overtime victory.

With 16 seconds to play in regulation and San Antonio up 98-96, Malone took a pass at the top of the key and drove toward the baseline. When Robinson stepped out to challenge him, Malone jumped, kicked and hit an off-balance shot to tie the game.

Robinson, who jumped to block Malone’s shot, was called for a foul.

``The man drives in and kicks me, and that’s the only contact on the play,″ Robinson said. ``He kicks me in the groin, and I get the foul. I don’t think that’s the way it should be.″

Another negative vote came from San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.

``Karl drives, and he kicks his legs,″ said Duncan, who also tried to guard Malone. ``I don’t know if it’s legal or not.″

Controversy over physical play is nothing new to Malone. In fact, the 13-year veteran has been called a dirty player so often in his career that he now rarely even comments on the accusations, and he refused to do so after Game 2.

``It’s physical. I don’t know if it’s even on both sides, and I don’t care,″ Malone said earlier.

Robinson is no stranger to Malone’s sometimes violent style of play. Robinson was knocked unconscious by an errant Malone elbow during the teams’ last regular-season game, on March 8. Malone was suspended for one game, and Robinson missed three while recovering.

``Karl’s always played like that ... he’s a very physically fit guy, and sometimes he’s a handful,″ Robinson said at the time.

``It surprises me they thought it was intentional. But then again, it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve been down that road before,″ Malone said about the elbow. ``The bottom line is, I don’t have to play that way, and I don’t play like that.″

The Jazz are quick to defend their franchise player.

``Karl is physically much stronger than most guys he plays against, and that’s a credit to his work ethic,″ coach Jerry Sloan said Friday. ``David’s a very strong player, too, and sometimes when bodies collide, things like that happen.″

Some Salt Lake City media have seen the Spurs’ complaints about Malone as falling in line with their reputation as a soft team. Robinson doesn’t think so.

``There’s a difference between physical play and dangerous play,″ he said. ``Sometimes, Karl walks that line.″

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