Love him or leave him, it seems virtually everyone in Utah has an opinion on The Mailman.

But what does the rest of America think of Karl Malone, the Jazz power forward who as of today is an unrestricted NBA free agent?

Lacking the time and telephone numbers to talk with absolutely everyone in the country, perhaps a sampling of newspaper opinion from throughout the United States will suffice.

So, for what it's worth . . .

The New York Daily News ranks Malone as the fifth-best free-agent power forward on the open market, trailing San Antonio's Tim Duncan, Elton Brand of the Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal and P.J. Brown of New Orleans.

Comment from the Daily News' Mitch Lawrence: "Playing for the (Los Angeles) Lakers and (Dallas Mavericks) is definitely enticing to someone who doesn't have a ring, but he can always get Jazz owner Larry Miller to open the vault one more time."

The Detroit News ranks Malone seventh on its list of free agents at any position, trailing Duncan, New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd, O'Neal, Golden State point guard Gilbert Arenas, Los Angeles Clippers center Michael Olowokandi and Milwaukee Bucks point guard Gary Payton.

Comment from the News' Chris McCosky: "(Like Payton), also past his prime."

In Dallas, The Dallas Morning News identifies Malone as the Mavs' No. 2 free-agent target behind Miami big man Alonzo Mourning.

Comment from the Morning News' Eddie Sefko: "Age (39) is a problem but toughness, durability are not."

Taking the cake for toughest shot at Malone, however, has to be the Indianapolis Star.

Not including the Pacers' own O'Neal, the Stars' breakdown of free agents includes three so-called "Marquee Players" in Duncan, Brand and Kidd.

It may come as no great surprise that Malone did not make that list.

But then the Star has a 'B' list, and Malone did not make that cut either: Mourning, Olowokandi, Andre Miller and Lamar Odom of the Los Angeles Clippers, Brad Miller of the Pacers, Denver's James Posey, Sacramento's Vlade Divac and Atlanta's Jason Terry all did.

Finally, a reference to Malone:

The Mailman falls under the Star's heading of "Oldies But Goodies," joined by Payton, Portland's Scottie Pippen and the Pacers' own Reggie Miller.


E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com