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Veteran Malone is a lonely All-Star

Karl Malone, never comfortable at NBA All-Star games to begin with, enters this weekend's festivities a bit lonely. His longtime Utah Jazz companion, John Stockton, wasn't selected to join him on the All-Star team for the first time in 10 years.

Neither were other perennial all-stars of his generation - and fellow members of the exclusive "50 Greatest Players in League History" club, as named a year ago - Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen.Instead, Malone, the oldest player on the Western Conference roster, will be teamed with Generation X-ers like Tim Duncan, Eddie Jones, Nick Van Exel and Jason Kidd. He'll start alongside a couple of kids who recently jumped right from high school to the NBA - Kevin Garnett and 19-year-old Kobe Bryant.

"I've got to reintroduce myself to some of these young guys," Malone said, only half-jokingly. "Probably half of them don't even know who I am. Yeah, it will be lonely without Stockton there."

It all has the 34-year-old defending league MVP feeling old - and a bit conspiratorial about the NBA's intentions for the players of his era.

"They've been trying to push us out now for the last four or five years," he said. "But if some other guys wouldn't have gotten injured there'd be more of us old guys. We're still hanging around and making a little noise."

Of course, Malone and the "old guy" on the East's team - Michael Jordan - should be able to make plenty of noise for the Baby Boomers on Sunday. They are presently the top two scorers in the league and two of the top candidates for the MVP award. Jordan was the top vote-getter in fan balloting for the All-Star Game, while Malone was the top vote-getter on the West team.

Malone says the way he plays isn't conducive to the midseason exhibition game. "I personally don't think I'm cut out for all-star games," he said. "I'm not a flashy type of guy. I just go there to do the best that I can."

But his All-Star record tells a different tale. Malone is a two-time All-Star Game MVP. He's averaged 15.7 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field in his previous appearances.

Meanwhile, the Mailman issued a stern message to his Jazz teammates after Wednesday night's victory over the Bulls in the Delta Center. While Jazz coach Jerry Sloan gave the team time off for the break until reconvening for practice Monday night, Malone said he hopes his teammates won't get too rested.

"You hope that each guy over the All-Star break doesn't go sit on their (rear end)," he said.

"That's what I hope. You've got four or five days off, but you can work out. I'm going to New York and I'm going to find my time to work out . . . We don't want to come back having to get in shape to play the game of basketball. Hopefully everybody comes back ready to play again."

If the Jazz don't come back in basketball shape - and Malone speaks out on the subject - it could once again cause some ill feelings in the team's locker room. During the preseason, the Mailman railed in public and private about the shape, or lack thereof, of several of his teammates. It caused some friction on the team at the time, although all involved say that has been put behind them by now.

The Jazz find themselves, at 31-15, tied with Phoenix for the fourth-record in the Western Conference at the break. They are 51/2 games behind Seattle for the best record in the conference and two games behind San Antonio in the Midwest Division.

"I'm looking forward to the second half of the season," said Malone.

In addition to Sunday's game, Malone will also compete with Utah Starzz guard Tammi Reiss in the first-ever 2ball competition during All-Star Saturday Night. He's also making a public appearance on Saturday afternoon where he'll have his picture taken with anyone who comes to meet him at a local sporting goods store in Manhattan.

"If I'm gong to fly to New York, I might as well get my money's worth," he said.

Jeff Hornacek is the other Jazz representative at the All-Star festivities. He'll compete in the 3-point shooting contest Saturday night. He's not taking the competition too seriously, however. He brought his wife and kids with him and plans to do some sightseeing and catch a Broadway play or two during the next couple of days.

"It's sort of like a mini-vacation," he said. "I just want to go out and have fun. In any competition you want to go out and win, but this one's really not a big deal. In this one it really doesn't matter if you come in last."