It is now just a month until the NBA's trade deadline (Feb. 21), so until then, expect the rumors to fly. The big one circulating last week had the Knicks putting Patrick Ewing on the trading block, possibly in exchange for either Golden State's Chris Mullin or Mitch Richmond, center Alton Lister and two No. 1 draft picks.

Knicks' G.M. Al Bianchi shot that one down, calling it "just speculation from some newspaper guys."Although the Jazz bosses appear content with their team, in a league where winning is the bottom line, nothing is etched in stone.

Asked if his team is set (read: trade-proof) as is, Jazz G.M. Tim Howells replied, "No, that's not safe to say; I don't think so. We have that sort of (trade) talk all the time. If the right deal comes up, you have to look at it."

However, Howells isn't saying there will be any changes in the team that is racing for the lead in the Midwest Division. "Have we focused on anything in particular? No. I've had some conversations with (Director of Player Personnel) Scott Layden, but they've been sketchy. Right now, there's nothing imminent."


THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS: Sometimes one star steps aside to make room for another. Such may become the case in the trade that sent Xavier McDaniel to Phoenix in exchange for veteran Eddie Johnson. The result was that the Sonics' Shawn Kemp - at 21 the league's youngest player - is becoming a star in Seattle.

In the 16 games following the trade, Kemp scored a career-high 31, led the team in scoring five times and Seattle went 10-6 after going 5-10 prior to the trade. He averaged 18.5 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, as well as shooing .553 from the field.

Says Johnson, "Shawn has no idea what kind of respect he has around the league. Usually, you get either agility or brute force in a player. Shawn has them both. The scary thing around the league is that everyone knows Shawn is just 21 years old. He'll continue to get better for the next several years. He won't hit his peak until way down the road."


PREMIUM STOCK: Although the Jazz's John Stockton remains among the NBA's elite point guards, he also continues to play in the shadow of one or two others. In a recent article in the Rocky Mountain News, former NBA players Rick Barry and Dan Issel were asked a series of questions about point guards. The consensus was that Stockton is behind Magic and Kevin Johnson, but ahead of Isiah Thomas.

"I'd stick with Magic, with Kevin Johnson and Stockton running a close second," said Barry.

"You almost have to take Magic out of the equation," said Issel. "There's only one guy who's 6-9 and can do the kind of things he can do. If you take Magic out of the equation, then I agree with Rick. My first choice is Kevin Johnson." Added Barry, "Johnson is probably a little more gifted athlete than Stockton."


OUTSIDE OPINIONS: From the East Coast, a couple of observations from NBA writers on the Utah Jazz and their crowd. In a recent column, New York Daily News writer Gary Binford quipped, "The Salt Palace, home of the Jazz, might be the only NBA arena where everybody (players excluded) claps on the wrong beat to rock music."

And from Boston Globe writer Bob Ryan springs this thought: "The Utah Jazz, Where Big Caucasians Go To Die. Ever since the successful Mark Eaton project, the Jazz have been willing to try all sorts of weird big guys. This year they gave employment to Dartmouth's Walter Palmer, not even an Ivy killer, and now they're looking at Fordham's Danny O'Sullivan (he was signed to a contract on Wednesday for the remainder of the year), who's not even a household name in Da Bronx . . . "


THOUGHTS ON THE GULF: While all NBA players are thinking of troops in the Middle East (The NBA has even instructed teams to wear a flag insignia on their warmups and have a flag sticker on the backboard until the war is over), to some the events hit closer to home.

San Antonio's David Robinson, who is a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve, said, "If I have to serve, I'll serve and I'll go eagerly. I don't consider myself any different than anybody else, so if I go, I'll go eagerly."

Richard Coffey, a Minnesota Timberwolves forward, served three years of active duty as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. "I have mixed feelings about not being there," he said. "At first, I feel sad that I'm not there with them, because I served with a lot of them. I feel like I should be over there. But then I don't wish I was over there, I wish that they were over here with me."


KID GLOVES: Sacramento Coach Dick Motta on how his job has changed: "Today, coaching is like dealing with multifaceted corporations instead of athletes who just love to play. Motivating them is harder. It's like Willie Shoemaker once said: `It's harder to get out of bed when you're wearing silk pajamas."


PARTING QUOTE: Sacramento Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reynolds on the trade that sent Danny Ainge to Portland: "I always said my goal was to build a championship team. Unfortunately, it's in Portland."

This column contains some materials gathered from other news sources.