By Jason Shoot
Notify the local mental hospital because I'm just about to check myself in.
In today's world of athletes jumping from team to team in search of a bigger contract, few players have remained loyal to their original team for the entire life of their career.
Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton is one of those players, and it appears he may finally have to call it quits after 17 fantastic seasons in the NBA.
As a journalist, my job is to remain objective and not let personal beliefs interfere with my performance. However, today I am serving as Stockton's personal PR man, so those rules don't apply.
Stockton may be heading out the proverbial door not because of age (39) or lack of production (11.5 points, 8.7 assists per game), but because of that evil five-letter word: M-O-N-E-Y.
Utah is stuck in a major bind deciding whether to pay Stockton the $10-13 million he's likely to demand. The Jazz are likely to have about $10-13 million in cap room this year, so the Stockton deal plays the biggest role before the team can address other needs in the offseason.
The New York Knicks gave streaky, non-superstar Allan Houston the maximum amount of money allowed under the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement (more than $100 million over seven years), Stockton clearly will be pushing for a hefty contract of his own.
After all, that's what the league's all-time leader in assists (14,503) and steals (2,976) should be pushing for.
If Utah makes the decision to decline paying Stockton an enormous amount of money this season, three very real problems exist: 1) Stockton will likely retire, leaving Jacque Vaughn at point guard, 2) Karl Malone will either retire or seek a trade elsewhere, and 3) the incredible backlash the team will receive from fans.
But if the team does ink Stockton to a huge deal, other problems will arise: 1) the team clearly needs another star player, and signing a player of that caliber will be nearly impossible, and 2) the league's oldest team does not get better, but instead even older.
The Jazz, who are going to finally add Russian stud Andrei Kirilenko to the roster next season, are reportedly interested in signing former Wizard guard Mitch Richmond. That move would significantly increase Utah's chances to advance past the first round of the playoffs.
But only if Stockton is still quarterbacking the team.
And it's not as if Stockton is detrimental to the team's success, even at age 39. Per 48 minutes, he averaged 18.9 points, 14.3 assists and 2.6 steals a game.
And he can still shoot the rock as well as any point guard in league history. He has made over 50 percent of his shots from the floor in 11 of 17 seasons and never worse than 47 percent that number from his rookie year.
Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy and Isiah Thomas couldn't do that, neither could current stars Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Stephon Marbury.
And now that those last three names have been mentioned, where does Stockton lie among all point guards in the league today?
Kidd, Payton and Marbury are interchangeable among the top three depending what attributes you're looking for, so who else is there? Minnesota's Terrell Brandon? Dallas's Steve Nash? I'd take Stockton over either of those two.
The league's fourth-best point guard and a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer should get paid what he's deserved. In this case, Stockton is deserving of whatever salary he sees fit.
But if he wants to win a title and no one can doubt that he does it's time for him to take a pay cut and help the team add another player that can help the Jazz finally get over the hump.
But, preferably, not over the hill.