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CHICAGO _ Has it started? Are we finally seeing the beginning of the end for the greatest power forward in NBA history?
"Obviously, I'm not shooting the ball very well right now," says Karl Malone. "I've just got to work through it."
Sure, slumps happen, even to great players. But rarely for as long as this one has for Malone, who has had a run of games of fewer than 20 points that no one around the Jazz has seen since Malone's rookie season 15 years ago.
In the last nine games Malone, who passed Wilt Chamberlain last month to become the second-leading scorer in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, has scored fewer than 20 points seven times and 13 or fewer four times. Malone is averaging 22.4 points and 9.1 rebounds for the season, which rank only a little below his career averages.
In the last four games he has averaged 15.3 points on 35 percent shooting. Taking out games at Philadelphia and Indiana after coach Jerry Sloan benched his starters and had a full practice on game day, Malone is averaging 14.9 points on 37 percent shooting and 6.7 rebounds since mid-December. This for a player with a career 53 percent shooting average.
Sloan, who likes to joke that the media have been writing off the John Stockton and Malone combination for nine years, has said little but made frequent references to players being bored and unmotivated, which Jazz …