Karl Malone's new agent is aiming high.
Dwight Manley, hired as the Utah Jazz star's agent last month, said $20 million will be the starting point for the bidding when the 35-year-old forward becomes a free agent after next season.
"Karl Malone is the league's worst nightmare, because there is not a person in the United States who thinks he shouldn't be paid fairly and taken care of," Manley said.
Hiring Manley was a major departure for Malone, who had done his own negotiations in the past. Malone has shunned agents for nearly a decade since he was nearly bankrupted by some questionable financial deals.
Manley, who also represents Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman, met Malone a few months ago in Los Angeles during a promotion for the professional wrestling bout between the two players.
"I didn't know Karl personally," Manley said. "All I knew him by was his game -- the fact that he is the greatest power forward of all time, hands down."
Within days, Malone signed with Manley, whose other clients include Detroit's Brian Williams and journeyman Vernon Maxwell.
"The biggest step in my career after 13 years was signing with an agent," Malone told The Washington Post earlier this week.
Malone will make about $6 million this season. By comparison, Minnesota forward Kevin Garnett is making about $20 million a year.
One reason Malone's salary has stayed below market value is that he has never become a free agent. On several occasions his contracts have been renegotiated, but they have never expired.
Manley said he has presented some ideas to Malone to help him "get to the top."
"He was very open-minded. I got the impression he had never been presented with the things he and I talked about," Manley said. "If he had, maybe he would have hired somebody else a long time ago."
Jazz management cannot comment on the situation because of a league-imposed gag order during the ongoinlockout. But The Salt Lake Tribune reported Saturday that the team was surprised with Malone's decision to hire Manley and that there was concern Manley wants to find a new team where Malone can finish his career.
"It's up to Utah whether they lose Karl or not," Manley said.
Malone, who hosted a benefit concert Saturday for his Karl Malone Foundation, has directed requests for interviews to Manley.
But he told The Washington Post: "I'm now making decisions Karl Malone wants to make and it's not going to sit well with every person out there. ... I never, in my wildest dreams, thought about going anywhere and I still look at Utah as my home, but you never know."
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