It had only aired once, when the Mailman's commercial for L.A. Gear became the center of controversy. The sneaker-maker said Monday it planned to file a formal protest with CBS and NBC over the networks' refusal to air the same commercial that ABC ran during the Super Bowl.

The ad, which ends with Karl Malone taking an apparent shot at the Nike "Air" line of shoes by saying, "Anything else is just hot air," was shown once during the Super Bowl on ABC, but denied by the other two major networks. A UPI story last week quoted Beth Bressan, a spokesperson for CBS, as saying the network refused the L.A. Gear ad because it suggested the attributes of competiting shoes were "meaningless and not to be believed.""We believe the L.A. Gear ad is unduly denigrating to the competition," she said.

She added that CBS recently refused to run a recent ad that attacked an L.A. Gear product.

However, by week's end, both NBC and CBS had reneged and were running the commercial. The shoe Malone is promoting, called the "Catapult," is expected to be available in stores over the next few weeks at a retail price of under $100.

Meanwhile, back in Salt Lake, the Mailman calls the situation "funny, arguing about shoes."

"If it didn't scare you, why do something about it?" he said of what he terms the "other" shoe company.

He continued, "L.A. Gear made a heck of an impression on a lot of people. No one ever introduced a new line at the Super Bowl."

If things continue as Malone says they will, we can expect more commercials from him and L.A. Gear. "It's a situation," he said, "where they haven't seen anything yet."

The bad thing about the All-Star team is that a lot of great players - such as the Jazz's Jeff Malone - get left off. In Philadelphia, guard Hersey Hawkins didn't mind voicing his opinion to writer Phil Jasner.

"No respect," Hawkins said. "I think it was a guarantee who the starters would be in the voting - Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. I knew I had no chance of making it that way. I'm hoping I have an outside shot from the coaches."

But alas, when the coaches selected the remaining reserves, Mr. Hawkins wasn't on the list.

The thundering elbows that sent Akeem Olajuwon to the injured list may not be silenced, but at least maybe they'll be muffled. NBA operations V.P. Rod Thorn recently asked Chicago's Bill Cartwright to start wearing elbow pads.

Cartwright, who has gained a reputation for doing damage with his elbows - Olajuwon was put out for two months with an eye injury, Jack Sikma had his nose bloodied and Greg Kite received stitches, all after connecting with Cartwright - has yet to be fined for throwing elbows. "The blows to the face cannot continue," Thorn was quoted as saying in the Chicago Tribune. "He has not been fined, as of this time, but whether they were on purpose or not, that is too many blows to the face."

Thorn didn't say whether the league ordered Cartwright to wear elbow pads as protection for other players, but Cartwright confirmed he was asked to do so.

Jazz forward Karl Malone, who has been criticized for throwing an elbow or two in his day, isn't taking up the cause for Cartwright. Asked what he thinks about the league's admonishment to Cartwright, he pointed to an NBA logo on his shirt and said, "See this? It says `Property Of . . . ' Sure, I work for the Jazz, but I'm property of the NBA. You do whatever they ask you to do."

A final note on the Shoe Wars: Malone says he will begin wearing the Catapult at the All-Star game, Feb. 10. And, he says, by next summer he will be wearing another L.A. Gear shoe - one he helped design.

"This is something you dream of," said the Mailman. "If someone would come up and say, 'OK, Karl, we're going to make a shoe for you,' it's a dream. Before they do anything, they call or write me and see if I like it."

Odds and ends . . .

The Mailman, an outspoken supporter of the American troops in the Persian Gulf, has been playing games with a tiny flag tucked into his shoe . . . After being beaten out in the All-Star balloting last year by the Lakers' A.C. Green, then winning a starting spot by a landslide this year, Malone wonders about the selection process, whereby fans pick the starting five. "Amazing," he says. "Maybe players should pick the starting five and the fans pick the subs."