It was only the groundwork, but the Jazz-Suns trip to Japan was the start of what NBA Commissioner David Stern hopes will create worldwide interest in the art of pro hoops.

At an annual sports business conference last week, Stern proclaimed "The global decade of the '90s . . . is upon us."This year, NBA games will be shown on television in 73 nations.

While the league expects to market itself worldwide, that doesn't necessarily mean it plans to have teams at every port. (T-shirts, yes. Teams, no.)

"That's not part of our plan," Stern continued. "There already are existing leagues and federations in most countries. We won't impose ourselves; we'll be working with those league's and federations.

"We want to make basketball the No. 1 sport in the world."

One world ambassador for the NBA is the Jazz's Karl Malone, who last November in Japan unabashedly announced, "We have the best athletes in the world."Jazz forward Thurl Bailey said Friday's buzzer-beating shot against the Pistons was his first-ever, in over 600 NBA games.

On second thought, he said he threw in a game-winning shot against Denver during his rookie season.Mavericks' Coach Richie Adubato on his son, Adam, who was born just prior to a televised game between the Jazz and Dallas: "Adam was very impressed with Karl Malone. Adam kept pointing to the screen, wondering why we couldn't stop Malone."The tandem of Jeff and Karl Malone has drawn considerable attention this season. Among the recent articles detailing their deeds was one in The National, called "Double Trouble."

The article described how the Jazz have been pleased with Jeff's defense, as well as his expected offensive skills. It also quotes President Frank Layden on Karl: "Let's face it, he's a slugger. He's not pretty. He's Rocky Marciano, not Muhammad Ali. But the bottom line is how much damage is he doing? Look at the rebounds, points, blocked shots. That's what wins games."One who doesn't need to be reminded of the Mailman's ability is Detroit Coach Chuck Daly. Following the Pistons' loss Friday to the Jazz, Daly had nothing but good to say about the player he may one day coach in the Olympics.

"He gives you problems and that is why he's an All-Star and is one of the top five players in the league," said Daly.Utah's trip to Japan at the year's start won't go down as the only one in history. Stern announced at a press conference during the All-Star break that the 1992-93 NBA season will begin in Japan again. Teams have yet to be announced.

Stern said he hopes to increase the number of exhibition games played abroad, too.

As far as Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan is concerned, playing regular season games abroad is something he never wants to do. Said Sloan, "I've never been through anything like it."Speaking of playing abroad, the Jazz's newest addition, Tony Brown, says the insecurity of a 10-day contract or two doesn't bother him.

Brown, who played in Europe until January, recently returned to the CBA, where he played three games before being called upon by the Jazz.

"I view it as an opportunity. Otherwise, I'd still be in the CBA," said Brown.

Brown isn't naive about the odds. Once Blue Edwards comes off the injured list, he'll likely find himself back with the Albany Patroons. However, at approximately $1,400 per game in NBA pay, nobody's complaining.

"I was brought up to live each day to its fullest," said Brown. "Whatever happens, happens and I was taught not to take life so seriously."Remember former Jazz player Darryl Dawkins? The Man from Lovetron who lasted exactly four games with Utah, is back in the news . . . sort of. Dawkins has emerged as - believe it - a coach.

Chocolate Thunder himself is playing in the Italian League and coaching a local women's club team in his spare time.

"I like to coach women," said Dawkins. "For once, they're giving me the impression that they are listening to me and doing what I want them to do. Not bad."

Dawkins is averaging 21 points a game.Sixers' star Charles Barkley on his much-acclaimed foot injury: "Before it's over, I'm going to get the credit I deserve. I'll be dead and gone, and people will be saying, `That guy was awesome.' Right now, people say my name and it's `controversy' first, `player' second.' "

This report includes materials gathered from other news sources.