Sunday's Super Bowl marks the debut of Karl Malone as a big-time pitchman. Since last summer when Malone signed a contract to promote LA Gear footwear, we've been hearing about the commercial, set to debut on Super Bowl Sunday. Now it's here.

"I'm really excited about this," says Malone.The name of the shoe Malone is promoting is called the "Catapult." It features Malone looking good and making shots. It also has him taking an apparent swipe at the market leader, Nike, by saying, "Anything else is just hot air."

The Mailman says he thinks the ad will run twice Sunday. And, he says, this is just the kickoff; he and L.A. Gear will pitching their product for some time.

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Butlers and maids aren't Malone's idea of how to get through life. The Mailman says he is just a regular, ordinary ($3.2 million-a-year) guy.

In a recent edition of the NBA's "Quotebook" Malone says, "I like to do things for myself."

He continues, "I go to the supermarket because I like to cook, and people say, 'What are you doing here?' I wash my car, I go to the dry cleaners. You don't have to live like that, not going out and doing things people normally do."

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Never one to disguise his opinions, former NBA star Wilt Chamberlain told Philadelphia writer Stan Hochman that he wasn't impressed with Kareem's farewell tour two years ago.

The subject came up as they discussed the upcoming March ceremony in Philadelphia, when the Sixers retire his jersey. Chamberlain said he is honored to have the jersey retired, but doesn't plan to make it a mega-production.

"I never wanted to get involved in anything like what Kareem did, that last farewell trip around the NBA," he said. "I remember thinking, 'What is all this (expletive)?' It was different than Doctor J's (farewell tour). Doctor J was well loved."

Chamberlain continued, "It's just not a really professional thing to do, accepting all those gifts. Rolls-Royce? Motorcycle? That's blasphemy.

"It is stupid to give Kareem a Rolls-Royce, which is what the Lakers did. Why not give a scholarship at UCLA in Kareem's name?

"I know people are going to grumble, there goes Wilt, popping off. But everybody knows it's right."

Chamberlain also said he isn't as impressed with money as he once was. "I'm not concerned about making another million. You get older, and things that seemed to important to you tend to fade."

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Jazz backup center Mike Brown has played against some menacing people - Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Akeem Olajuwon, etc. - but maybe his worst opponent this year wasn't anyone so imposing.

Brown missed two practices last week with a sprained toe. The culprit? An end table that had established position. Brown said he turned over while in bed the night before last week's game at Indiana, and hit his toe on the table, which was near the foot of his bed.

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If minutes played is a good indicator of a player's value to a team, then the Jazz's bread is still buttered with John Stockton and Karl Malone.

Going into last week's games, Malone had played 1,552 minutes, more than any player in the league. (Incidentally, Malone also led the league in defensive rebounds with 356). Teammate John Stockton was seventh in minutes played.

In average minutes per game, Malone was third (39.5), but Stockton wasn't among the league's top 10.

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Speaking of Stockton . . . considered one of the best point guards in the business, Stockton is getting competition from a new, young source - Golden State's Tim Hardaway.

Just a second-year pro, Hardaway has drawn high praise from Warriors' Coach Don Nelson. "He's proving to be up there with any point guard you can name. Anybody. Kevin Johnson, Magic Johnson, Terry Porter, John Stockton and Isiah Thomas. You cannot convince me that any of those players, great as they are, are better than Timmy right now," says Nelson.

The league's fans, however, apparently still prefer Stockton, who received more votes in this year's All-Star balloting.

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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."

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Motta, whose lowly Kings are holding down last place in the Midwest Division, came close to abandoning ship, several weeks ago. Reports out of Sacramento said after a 101-59 loss to Charlotte on Jan. 10, Motta told players on a team flight that he was ready to quit, and would abide by a majority rule. Players were asked to vote on whether he stay or leave, and only one player reportedly voted that Motta leave.

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Although the Jazz have been through a fairly trying schedule so far - including a trip to Japan and three more road games thus far than they had last year - February is a much more home-bound month. In 28 days, the Jazz play only 10 games; of those, just four are on the road.

March is another matter. The Jazz begin that month with an 11-day, seven-game road swing, their longest of the season.

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A final note on the Mailman. For whatever reason, Karl Malone says he loves his work. "I just go out there and try to have fun," he said after a particularly trying game against Sacramento. Although Malone finished that game with a sub-par 20 points and only five rebounds - due to foul problems - he shrugged. "If that's the way they (the officials) saw it, that's the way they saw it."

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PARTING QUOTE: Jazz President Frank Layden on controversial USA Today sports writer Peter Vecsey: "He's to journalism what Dr. Ruth is to medicine."