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Malone happy to be All-Star

Jazz star, at age 38, voted to West team by NBA coaches

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Karl Malone would rather be picked to the All-Star team by the coaches than the fans anyway.

Which is a good thing, since it was announced Tuesday that Western Conference coaches had voted the Jazz forward into his 14th All-Star Game. He had finished seventh among West forwards in fan balloting for the Feb. 10 game in Philadelphia.

"The fans pick their starters, but it's more of an honor, as far as I'm concerned, if the coaches pick you," he said prior to Tuesday's practice. "You see if they still respect your game and if you're still a topic of their defense in their locker room. The coaches know a whole lot more about what you try to do for your team."

In recent seasons, Malone has gone into the All-Star break saying he'd rather have the time off. Now he sounds like a guy beginning to savor the twilight seasons.

"I don't know," he said, when asked before the official announcement if he cared about making the team. "38 years old, it would be pretty neat to make it."

In the past two All-Star games, Malone has played a combined seven minutes. Asked if he'd like to do that again, he smiled and said, "I want to bump that up to a whoppin' 10. I figure if I'm going to fly all the way back there, I want to get some minutes out of it."

Regardless of how much he plays, Malone doesn't expect the break to be particularly restful. He's already planned to spend time with his ailing mom, who is in Louisiana, which means flying back and forth from the All-Star site. There's still a chance he'll be invited to participate in the Olympic torch relay, which means he could have to return to Utah. Then, on Tuesday, two days after the All-Star Game, the Jazz play in Indianapolis, so Malone said he'd fly straight from Philly to Indiana.

"I'll be on the road for a long time," he said.

Malone still doesn't know if he'll be invited to participate in the torch run.

"I've not heard from anybody and I don't know if I will," he said.

Malone will be among the oldest All-Stars ever, a fact he finds gratifying.

"I don't like to talk about the 38 thing and all of that, but . . . to go out everyday and play, it's starting to mean something to me," he said. "I thought when I got to this point it would be all yeah, whatever, I'm just doing my job. But it really is starting to mean more and more to me, every night I play."

What makes playing even more fulfilling, Malone said, is knowing that even with a change in rules this season that forced an alteration in his playing style, he's still producing at a high level.

"It's been an adjustment," he said. "People told me I couldn't make the adjustment. That's what I heard coming back into camp, that everybody else could make the adjustment except me. So being able to make the adjustment and make an All-Star team . . . "

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan says it's a measure of Malone's effectiveness that he was able to claim a berth in a forward-rich conference.

"There are a lot of great forwards," he said. "I don't know if I've ever seen this game where there's been that many. It's a wonderful group of guys to select from."

Before Malone's selection, Sloan said, "I'd be happy for him if he did make it. It says a lot about what he's been about and what he's tried to do."

In Sloan's mind, guard John Stockton is still an All-Star, too. But, he added, "from a selfish standpoint, I probably wouldn't pick either one of them. I've never been an All-Star guy. These guys, at their age, they could use a couple days off.

"But from a friendship standpoint, and all that, they should be on the team."

Sloan said the Jazz system doesn't offer a dynamite showcase for would-be All-Stars.

"The way we play is not the way the All-Star game is played," he said. "Those guys (Stockton and Malone) aren't really one-on-one type players."


E-mail: rich@desnews.com