Not everyone is buying the burn-out explanation for Frank Layden's choice to leave coaching, leading to some wild suggestions.

In the days that followed, David Checketts heard the following reasons for the change: 1) Layden has cancer; 2) Checketts and Layden fought over the decision to keep Bart Kofoed or Scott Roth, and; 3) Checketts was being demoted from president to general manager.Checketts laughs at all of the above. "The bottom line is, it was time to make a change," he says.

If anything, Layden had to convince Checketts about keeping Kofoed, a true guard with a guaranteed contract, over Roth, a swingman. "If we're going to disagree," said Checketts, "we'll disagree about something other than the 12th man on the team."

During the Jazz's trip to Boston, where he formerly lived, Checketts had friends telling him how sorry they were to hear of his apparent job change. But he's still running the franchise, and the Jazz's memo to other NBA teams advised them that Checketts remains the Jazz's front-man for trade talk, and Checketts says that he, player personnel director Scott Layden and Coach Jerry Sloan all will have more to say about player moves than Layden, the president.

*** NEW TEAMS: The prevailing idea about the expansion teams is that Charlotte's better now, but Miami will be better in, say, two years because the Heat have more young players.

The Hornets' drafting of guard Rex Chapman over center Rony Seikaly looks questionable, but their future is not exactly bleak because their veterans are not all that old. Besides, Miami is banking largely on a stockpile of future second-round draft choices.

"There's no proof that (Miami's) younger guys will get better, or they'll stay there," says Charlotte's Kelly Tripucka. "The future's now. You want to win now. I mean, it's important later, but there's no reason you can't win now and win down the road. I like what we're doing."

*** AT RANDOM: Sloan, asked to compare himself with Layden: "All I know is that if Morganna came up and tried to kiss me, I'd probably knock her out before she got the chance." . . . "They've got two or three green lights, in case one goes out," Karl Malone said, after the Knicks tried 20 three-pointers against the Jazz . . . Dell Curry should return this week for Charlotte after going down with a broken wrist on the first day of training camp. "They're ready to start making trades; I don't think I'll be involved," said Rickey Green. . . .

The Celtics have made no roster move to replace Larry Bird. "If they make a trade, I'm the buffalo. I'm the one who's going to be extinct," Danny Ainge told the Boston Herald . . . Ainge, on Bird's absence: "This is Larry's team. Larry's been the show here, but a lot of players are playing to show what they can do without him" . . . Michael Jordan has asked Chicago GM Jerry Krause to find personnel help. "He mostly told me he couldn't do anything about it because of my contract," Jordan said . . .

Charlotte vice president Carl Sheer on Chapman, who's shooting less than 40 percent: "In the beginning, his shot selection was so bad you just wanted to put your head in your hands and close your eyes. But lately, something has clicked in his head and he's figuring out how to play." . . . The Jazz would have signed Steve Alford if Dallas had cut him before the season, but they're satisfied with Jim Les as a backup point guard. Teams are pressing and trapping Les like crazy, but he's staying fairly cool. In the 16 minutes that Stockton was on the bench at New York, the Jazz lost only three points . . . One of Layden's legacies is the Jazz's paranoia about officiating. Yes, Stockton deserves better treatment, but Malone is enjoying his All-Star status and the Jazz shot 96 more free throws than their opponents through 22 games. Malone is averaging 12 tries a game, putting him on a pace to join Wilt Chamberlain as the only player to shoot 1,000 free throws in a season. Shooting 77 percent, Malone also has a chance to become one of six players - including Adrian Dantley in 1983-84 - to average 10 points a game from the line.