Karl Malone's favorite play of the season (so far) wasn't a hammer dunk or a falling-down prayer or a killer block, though he's had his share of each of those.

On the Mailman's favorite play, Utah didn't even score a field goal. It happened against Minnesota earlier this week, when the Jazz whipped the ball from John Stockton to Tom Chambers to Malone to Jeff Hornacek to Adam Keefe, as the Timberwolves desperately tried to keep up by rotating defensively. Keefe caught the ball on the baseline and went to the hoop, and Minnesota fouled to keep him from scoring.If you don't understand why that was Malone's favorite play, you haven't figured out what this team is all about.

RICH FRANCHISE: According to the magazine Financial World, the Jazz ranked fourth among professional sports franchises in value increase over the past year, behind the Phoenix Suns and the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers.

The Jazz's value increased 29 percent, from $98 million to $127 million. The average NBA team increased 15.1 percent.

ROOKIE ENTHUSIASM: Jazz rookie Jamie Watson got a real taste of what the playoffs might be like in Wednesday night's victory over the Houston Rockets. It was a wild affair, with technical fouls, ejections and physical play, the kind of game the youngster had heard about but not experienced.

"To some degree, I hear this is what the playoffs are like, as far as intensity and effort," he said.

Watson, who has earned praise from coaches for his level-headed approach to the game, said he enjoyed the Rockets' matchup and wants more.

"Maybe it's more exciting to me than to the guys who've been there a lot of times," he said, "but I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait."

QUOTEBOOK: Karl Malone, on whether 60 wins was a team goal: "Nope. The playoffs are a big deal to me, not 60 wins."

NBC analyst Bill Walton, on the Jazz: "They play strictly to win. Their players have no other agenda. It's not an MTV team."

SHORT STUFF: John Stockton needs six assists to reach 1,000 this season, for the seventh time in his NBA career . . . Forward Marques Bragg, who has been in Jazz camp a couple of times, was the CBA's Newcomer of the Year . . . In eight CBA playoff games, former Jazz guard Walter Bond shot 41 percent from the field, 17.2 percent from the three-point line.

WHO'S HOT & NOT: Malone has hit 60.4 percent of shots in last four games . . . Benoit is 30 of 54 (55.6 percent) over last six . . . Stockton is 26 of 46 (56.5) over last four.

Antoine Carr is 4 for 13 from the field over the last three games . . . John Crotty is 5 of 18, 1 of 9 on three-point attempts . . . Bryon Russell has made 4 of last 19.