Prime-time players
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

In an era when players receive constant criticism for placing money over winning, Karl Malone and Gary Payton deserve a salute for taking significant paycuts last week to sign contracts with the Los Angeles Lakers. Under terms of the deals, both players will have to actually buy tickets to attend the games, and Malone has to sit next to Dyan Cannon when he isn't on the court.

But who cares? Malone and Payton certainly don't. The two players are already fabulously rich, so they don't need the money. They will, however, receive an excellent chance to earn the one item that has eluded both during their careers: an NBA championship ring.

Gary Payton, Karl Malone
"Watchu talkin' bout Mailman?"
Of course, there are some drawbacks to the signings.

For one thing, Dennis Rodman now says that he, too, wants to sign with Los Angeles so he can win one last title. The Lakers aren't interested at the moment, because they're still trying to find room under the salary cap for George Mikan, John Kundla and Jim Pollard. They're also still waiting for Memphis Grizzlies general manager Jerry West to trade himself back to the Lakers.

Further, Payton and Malone will have to seriously change their accustomed lifestyles in order to get by on much lower salaries. No doubt, the two are already looking for a suitable apartment to share in Los Angeles. They won't need much. Just a small kitchen, a bathroom, one bedroom for Payton, another for Malone and 14 other bedrooms for Payton's posse.

So goodbye, Utah. Farewell, Milwaukee and Seattle. Welcome to the life atop the NBA world, where Hummers and Escalades are replaced with coupon clipping, Ramen nights, weekend trips to Costco and myriad sitcom possibilities ...

"Friends"

[The show begins with shots of MALONE and PAYTON cavorting with KOBE, SHAQ and RICK FOX outside their Los Angeles apartment house while the Rembrants sing ...]

"So, no one told you, life was gonna be this way

Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life is DOA

It's like you're always stuck in second gear

And it hasn't been your day, your week, your month or even your year

But --

I'll be there for you ..."

[The episode opens as PAYTON bursts into the apartment he shares with MALONE, who is sitting in an easy chair, watching "Baywatch" and cleaning his collection of shotguns.]

PAYTON: Guess what, Karl! Kobe slept with Monica!

MALONE: Kobe and Monica? No way! I thought he was married to Phoebe.

PAYTON: C'mon, man, why do you always do this to me? Kobe was engaged to Phoebe, but they broke up after a wild and wacky cliffhanger following the 2001 playoffs.

MALONE: Why did they break up?

Gary Payton
Gary Payton frowns as Lara Flynn Boyle informs him that 4-percent body fat is too fat for L.A.
PAYTON: She got too old for him. So he married Rachel after a wild and wacky cliffhanger following the 2002 playoffs.

MALONE: He's married to Rachel, and he's sleeping with Monica? Is he nuts? Why would anyone in their right mind do that?

PAYTON: I know what you're saying, but have you seen how Rachel has let herself go? I think she gained seven ounces since having his kid.

MALONE: And I guess she is getting up there in age. She just turned, what, 24?

PAYTON: Actually, I think she just turned 21. But still. She's not a teenager anymore.

[He pauses.]

PAYTON: Anyway, man. What I really wanted to know is if you could loan me $100 to grab a coffee at Central Perk.

MALONE: A hundred dollars? You already owe me $1,500 from last week. And how much coffee can one person drink anyway?

PAYTON: Well, I'm meeting my posse.

MALONE [Pulling out his wallet]: Man, I knew I should have convinced Stockton to sign with L.A.

[The episode fades to black.]

"The Odd Couple"

[Neal Hefti's familiar theme music plays over the opening credits while we see clips of PAYTON and MALONE wandering through Los Angeles.]

VOICEOVER: Can two NBA superstars on a tight budget share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

[The episode opens with PAYTON walking into the apartment to find MALONE painting a white stripe down the middle of the living room.]

PAYTON: What the @$*& you doing, Dog?

MALONE: I've had it with your carousing, your constant parade of friends and associates, your loud music, your entire attitude and, most of all, your garbage strewn all over the place. So I'm painting a line dividing the apartment in half. From now on, you stay on your half and I stay on my half, and we won't have any problems.

PAYTON: What the #*&@*&? You picked the best half. You got the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedrooms. Where the #@#*& am I supposed to sleep and eat and @#&$? And where the *&$$@ is my posse supposed to hang?

MALONE: You should have thought about that when you were drinking my milk from the carton.

PAYTON: You don't really think you can keep me off your side, do you, old man? As old as you are, as slow as you are, how the @#&$ you gonna keep me from crossing on over to your side any @&%&ing time I want?

[MALONE pulls out a shotgun.]

MALONE: Perhaps you're forgetting I'm a spokesman for the NRA?

PAYTON: Whoah! Chill, ancient one, chill! All right, all right. I'll stay on my @$&%ing side of the apartment. But you forgot one thing, Dog.

MALONE: What's that?

PAYTON: You left your Rogaine on my side.

[The episode fades to black.]

I Love Lucy
Next week on "I, Glove and Lucy" ... Lucy takes Vitameatavegamin to help pass her NBA drug test.
"I, Glove and Lucy"

[The episode opens in the apartment shared by PAYTON, MALONE and LUCY RICARDO, who is once again irritating the two players with a familiar whine ...]

LUCY: Garyyyyy, why can't I come down to the Center with you and be a Laker girl?

PAYTON: Because you is old and ugly! We see your pale butt jigglin' on the court, and we'd be so screwed up we couldn't even beat the Clippers! There ain't enough Viagra in the world for you to get a crowd motivated.

MALONE: It's true, Lucy. You're even too old for me.

LUCY: WAAAAAAAAHH!!!!

[The episode fades to black.]

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.





PRIME TIME PLAYERS

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