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A columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle thinks the Mailman could deliver an NBA championship to the Golden State Warriors.

Under the headline "Warriors Have to Get the Mailman," Glenn Dickey criticized Golden State's trading away of Chris Webber and said the team could atone by acquiring Karl Malone.Dickey's argument is that Warrior coach Don Nelson has his best talent ever, with the league's No. 1 backcourt in Tim Hardaway and Latrell Sprewell. But they just don't match up, muscle-wise, with other Western Conference teams.

To get Malone, wrote Dickey, they could offer Tom Gugliotta and Chris Gatling, or maybe Gugliotta and the three draft choices they got in the Webber deal.

"Would the Jazz go for such a deal?" he asked. "I don't know the thinking of the Utah management, but it seems the frustration level must be high, with a team that is very good but has no chance at a championship . . . To my memory, there's never been a team that has made the playoffs for such an extended period without winning even a conference title."

* * *

Funny how this game works. Two weeks ago, after a loss at Golden State, the Bay Area media said the Jazz were too old and tired to compete. Since then, Utah has won six of eight while the Warriors have fallen into total disarray.

After Utah's victory at Portland, Steve Brandon of the Portland Oregonian wrote, "Don't write these guys off yet. They are not too old, and there is no need to trade one of their veteran stars. The Portland Trail Blazers? No, the Utah Jazz . . ."

After detailing the latest feats of Malone and John Stockton, Brandon continued, "But wait, there was more to the Jazz than those two. And that is why Utah looked like a possible sleeper in what is shaping up as a wild season in the Western Conference."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, of course, was a little more cautious.

"We like our team," he said, "but you have to play 82 games." (And one at a time, I might add.) "We have potential, but maybe your potential gets hurt along the way."

Or maybe you trade your potential off to Golden State for Tom Gugliotta and . . . Naaah.

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Antoine Carr has been on a veritable assist spree of late. In his first 182 minutes of court time with Utah - that's 3.8 full 48-minute games - he racked up a grand total of two assists. But in his last 83 minutes he's assisted six times. Watch out, Stockton.

Seriously, Carr is proving to be a terrific acquisition for the Jazz. Where certain younger players occasionally seem reluctant to shoot the ball, Carr has no such qualms, and you need that from your bench. Over his last five games, the Big Dawg has hit 23 of 29 shots (79.3 percent).

Tom Chambers also has no reservations about putting the ball up, and he's doing it more effectively this season. Last year he shot 44 percent from the field. This season he's at 51.3, and the word is his shot selection has improved.

* * *

The Jazz apparently have decided to give up something now to get more later, and I'm not talking about a Mailman-for-Gugliotta trade. They lose something by using Jay Humphries as the backup to Stockton, because at this point, John Crotty is playing better. Even though Crotty has struggled lately, he still looked sharper than Humphries in the two games the veteran guard has played since returning from the injured list. But Sloan must figure that if Humphries can return to his form of last season he stands to help the team more than Crotty.