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The Mailman has never grown out of his excitable rookie character, which may be good or bad. Karl Malone still swings on the rim after dunks, glares at referees and draws more technical fouls than anybody this side of Charles Barkley, gives high-fives to fans while running back on defense and celebrates big plays with a trademark move of crouching and pumping his fist toward the floor.

You'd think he was in the end zone or something.But the Mailman insists his act is innocent and says nobody's told him to knock it off. Nobody he wants to listen to, anyway.

"If you look at any player, he's got his own things he does to get himself motivated," Malone says. "I'm not a Dennis Rodman. I haven't had that reputation where teams talk about it. I try not to show players up."

Malone is occasionally surprised when he sees himself going through his gyrations on film, but he also says he's responding to teammates' urging to do something to get the home crowd going.

"You have to have fun out there, and there's no harm with that," he noted. "Everybody knows that's part of my game. I don't like to be called a boring player."

No danger of that.

Says Coach Frank Layden, not exactly reserved himself, "As long as he doesn't overdo it or make fun of the other team, I have no problem with it. Besides, he's too big."

ADD MALONE: Maybe Malone's antics will become part of an excercise video. Ranking fourth in the NBA by playing almost 40 minutes a game, Malone has lost almost 25 pounds this season. After a summer of weightlifting, he reported for training camp in October weighing 262. When he stepped on the scales the other day, he was surprised to be weighing only 238.

"The way I play, you're going to sweat a lot and lose weight," said Malone, noting that he feels better and stronger than ever. "During the season, you can eat like a hog and still run it right off. I'm glad I've got a problem keeping weight on."

Says teammate Mel Turpin, "I don't have that trouble. I wish he'd tell me the secret."

When last seen, Turpin was asking around the locker room about parks for jogging in Salt Lake City. Having reported to camp at 282, considered by the Jazz staff as 15 or more pounds overweight, Turpin claims a net loss of "a few pounds" this season. "I'll be working out this summer to get my weight down."

AT RANDOM: Jazz president-GM David Checketts is taking a more active role in the college draft this year, joining scout Scott Layden at this week's all-star tournament in Orlando...Now that the Jazz are paying more and winning about the same, they're on a pace to finish eighth in the NBA in cost efficiency, or player-payroll dollars per win. Detroit and Dallas should finish 1-2.

...As he occasionally does, Jazz chief statistician John Allen borrowed a videotape to verify his work of Thursday night, when John Stockton was credited with 26 assists, the fourth-highest total in NBA history, and Portland's Terry Porter set a franchise record with 19...

Golden State may not win 20 games this season, but Chris Mullin says the Warriors are "more of a team" without Sleepy Floyd, traded to Houston. Floyd has not exactly taken Houston by storm, averaging five fewer points and four fewer assists for the Rockets than he did in Oakland last season...After scoring 41 points against Indiana Wednesday, the Knicks' Patrick Ewing said, "I've been waiting to get this feeling since I got to New York. We're having fun. And I feel unstoppable." The Knicks, meanwhile, plan to renegotiate the contracts of Gerald Wilkins and rookie Mark Jackson after the season...The Celtics apparently diagnosed a sudden injury for rookie Reggie Lewis. Funny, but Bill Walton may be close to being activated, and the Celtics need a place on the roster for him. Lewis told the Hartford Courant, "They explained the whole situation to me. I know what's going on."

QUOTABLE: Denver's Doug Moe, on his chances to be named NBA Coach of Year: "If it becomes a threat, I'll campaign against it. If I have to, I'll call all the media in the country and call them jerks."