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Jazz sign Stockton to a two-year contract

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ John Stockton was willing to take a pay cut. He's fairly certain he'll be able to make ends meet with a salary of dlrs 8 million for each of the next two seasons.

The future Hall-of-Famer announced Thursday that he has signed a two-year contract extension with the Utah Jazz, the only team he's ever played for.

Stockton made dlrs 11 million last season, but agreed to take about dlrs 3 million less so that the Jazz would not exceed the estimated luxury tax threshold of dlrs 54 million.

``I just look at myself mostly as fortunate,'' Stockton said. ``It's not like we'll be at the soup kitchen. This is a very good job. There's not a guy in the league who doesn't have one of the best jobs in the world.''

He begins his 18th season with the Jazz next week, when training camp opens.

Stockton, the NBA's all-time leader in assists and steals, said he wasn't sure if he would play out the contract, and that team owner Larry Miller was the one who asked him to sign for two years instead of one.

``We may really need you two years from now,'' Miller recalled telling Stockton.

Stockton has missed just 22 out of 1,362 regular season games. He averaged 11.5 points and 8.7 assists in 29.2 minutes a game last season.

Utah tied for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference, but was eliminated in the first round by the Dallas Mavericks.

``It's uncommon in today's world to see someone stay with one employer for 17 years, let alone one basketball team for 17 years,'' Jazz president Dennis Haslam said. ``It's a credit to John's integrity and his interest in loyalty to the Utah Jazz and we're really excited to have him back this year.''

The emotional Miller barely got one sentence out at the news conference before his voice started cracking, often stopping to gather his thoughts and explain the nuances of his nearly two-decade relationship with Stockton.

``There is truly no way to quantify or accurately measure what John has done for this franchise,'' Miller said.

Miller said he's often asked what the unassuming, private Stockton is really like.

``My standard answer is: He's exactly how you hope he is. What you see is what you get. There's no pretenses.''

Stockton, dressed in a white polo shirt, white shorts and sneakers, seemed relaxed and more candid than usual. At the prodding of Miller, Stockton told of his first year in the NBA, living in a furnished apartment, thinking that every paycheck could be his last.

``Everything after that's been gravy,'' Stockton said.

No talk of Stockton seems complete without mentioning partner Karl Malone, another future Hall-of-Famer, whose career in Utah began one year after Stockton's. Malone's contract, coincidentally or not, also expires at the end of the 2002-03 season.

When asked if they had discussed contract situations with one another this summer or in the past, Stockton said no, but acknowledged the significance of each man's tenure with the team.

``Clearly, neither one of us, I don't think, could have played this long without the other,'' Stockton said.
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