David Stern has urged a reconciliation for Utah Jazz owner Greg Miller and Hall of Famer Karl Malone, using strong language but stopping short of an outright mandate or a hint at any disciplinary action for the vocal owner.
In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, the NBA commissioner said he wants a public spat between the two, played out over the past week and a half in local media and Miller's blog, "put to rest."
"I'm looking forward to the next meeting between Greg and Karl," Stern told the newspaper at the league's headquarters in New York before the Jazz's Monday night game against the Knicks.
"Not for the sparks that I expect will fly, but for the calming that I think will and should occur," Stern said. "Because [Malone has] meant so much to the franchise and the city over the years and to the Miller family, and the Miller family has meant so much to the franchise and the city for so many years."
The stinging series of rebukes between Miller and Malone stemmed in part from interviews the former Jazz great gave to The Tribune and a Salt Lake City radio station recently in which he said he was forced to use a scalper to buy tickets for a Jazz game.
Malone also discussed former coach Jerry Sloan's retirement last February, saying the Jazz had given guard Deron Williams, now with the New Jersey Nets, too much power and ultimately soiled Sloan's desire to continue coaching, a scenario Sloan denied in a statement released by the team Saturday.
"A lot of [Malone's] charm is that he speaks his mind," said Stern, who referenced Malone as an "old friend" in the interview with the Salt Lake City newspaper. "But on this one, where Jerry has given his statement and Greg his given his statement -- and they were there and they were in the room. ... I'm not sure why Karl has put himself in the position of saying, 'I don't know the facts but I know what happened.' When, in fact, he couldn't have."
Miller, in a Friday blog post, alluded to a history of difficulties in dealing with Malone, punctuating it by writing that he was "too unreliable and too unstable" to be an assistant coach. Miller had earlier tweeted that Malone was lying about needing a scalper for Jazz tickets.
"The fact is Karl is still as high maintenance as he ever was, but now he has nothing to offer to offset the grief and aggravation that comes with him," Miller wrote in his blog.
Malone, speaking Saturday to The Tribune, reiterated his initial stance.
"I expressed what I feel and I don't regret what I said," Malone said. "It's what I believe about Coach Sloan."
Malone, elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2010 after a 19-year career, helped lead the Jazz to two NBA Finals alongside John Stockton and ranks second in all-time points scored behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"He's got his statue [outside EnergySolutions Arena], which I think he deserved," Stern said of the Jazz's home arena.
For his part, Stockton told The Tribune he's worried the dispute will "tarnish" the legacy he and Malone worked so hard to build.
"What we all shared is so special," Stockton said. "I just hope this can be resolved, because it was a special time for me and for everyone."