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AK47 exorcizes Kobe demon

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If Kobe Bryant really was residing in Andrei Kirilenko's head the last couple weeks, consider his eviction notice served.

"It's not about Kobe," Kirilenko said of a shooting slump he took into the Jazz's game Sunday against New Jersey, which Utah won with Kirilenko's last-second tip. "It's about myself."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan first suggested Friday that the second-season swingman's recent woes perhaps can be traced to a rough defensive showing against the Lakers star in a mid-February Utah loss to Los Angeles.

But Kirilenko scoffed at that, suggesting he had only himself to blame for shooting 28.1 percent from the field in five games prior to Sunday.

"You have good moments in the NBA, and freak cold streaks," Kirilenko said before facing the Nets. "Right now, I have cold streak."

Kirilenko warmed some Sunday, though, finishing with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting.

KARL SPEAKS: Jazz forward Karl Malone made national waves Sunday, calling out Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal and Minnesota's Kevin Garnett for not committing to play for a chance at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

"You can't make people play. You wish they would, but you can't make 'em play," Malone told the Associated Press before Sunday's game. "But if guys know what's at stake here and they don't want to play, there's something wrong with them, basically."

Malone has said he looks forward to joining USA Basketball's national team for an August qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico and, he hopes, a third Summer Games gold medal.

Tracy McGrady, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen and Tim Duncan already have been named to the team; Bryant and Mike Bibby, like Malone, have said they were invited and plan to play.

O'Neal has not answered the call yet, but has not ruled out playing, either.

"You would hope a guy like Shaq would play," Malone said. "I don't know why he wouldn't, but that's a decision he's got to make."

Ditto for Garnett.

"It's not about taking up your summer," Malone said. "Basketball has been good to you, and to give up one of your summers for all you've gotten — I don't think that's too much to ask.

"I think when it comes down to it," he added, "those guys will realize that. You'd hope they would."

HARPRING UPDATE: Kirilenko opened Sunday in place of Jazz starting small forward Matt Harpring, who was scheduled for more tests today on the right ankle he sprained Friday in Philadelphia.

"I hope it's not (a long-term injury)," said Harpring, whose ankle still was quite swollen Sunday.

As for heavy boos Harpring heard in Philly, the ex-76ers swingman wasn't surprised: "No," he said, "because that's what Philly does."

Harpring and Sixers coach Larry Brown have exchanged barbs since last offseason, including some late last week.

ONE-LINER: Sloan, after a question prefaced with the suggestion 39-year-old Malone always is matched against younger power forwards: "Well, they should be. He's not getting any younger."

A . . . RAZOR?: Kirilenko has a growing collection of chin whiskers, though not because the 22-year-old Russian is working on a goatee.

What then? "I don't have a shaving machine," Kirilenko said.

MISC.: The Jazz had 19 steals Sunday, tying a franchise record reached twice previously. Kirilenko and NBA all-time assists leader John Stockton made four each . . . Jazz center Greg Ostertag had six rebounds, including the 3,000th of his career . . . Nets center Jason Collins, injured Jazz big man Jarron Collins' twin brother, blocked a career-high five shots. . . . Last time the Nets beat Utah at home: Jan 16, 1994 . . . The Jazz's first workout in their newly built practice facility is Tuesday.


E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com