Even for those accustomed to first-rate hotels and fine meals, the Utah Jazz are talking about the transportation on their trip that ends Monday night in San Antonio.

With the exception of two legs of the trip - Salt Lake to Detroit and Detroit to Philadelphia - the Jazz have flown on a charter plane rented from the Sacramento Kings.The plane has all first-class seating. It includes fold-out tables for card-playing or working and meals served on glass dishes. "This is too good for us," cracked one Jazz player.

On the first night of chartering, from Philadelphia to Orlando, players were served lasagne, salad, rolls, soft drinks, candy bars, juices, bottled water "from the mountains of Europe" and chocolate cake.

Discussing the menu for the next day, a flight attendant said, "Just tell us what you want. We can get whatever you need."

Perhaps more important to the players, though, is the absence of time wasted sitting in airports.

Predictably, with a team on a hot streak, the Jazz were feeling loose and happy. After the first charter flight last week, John Stockton said facetiously, "I move that we never charter again."

For several games, the Mailman has been wearing his old L.A. Gear shoes, not the new "Catapult" model he is promoting.

No, he says, he hasn't changed his allegiance. Malone said shipment of his shoes, which are made overseas, was held up, thus he went back to the older model for a few days.

Forward Thurl Bailey went to extra effort two weeks ago, when he flew from Oakland to Salt Lake City, via an Army helicopter, to serve as an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of Sgt. Jeffrey Rollins.

Rollins, a friend of Bailey's, was killed in an accident during the war in the Middle East.

Bailey then flew back to Seattle to join the team for the game against the Sonics.

So maybe dreams do come true. Dallas guard Steve Alford tells of informing his eighth-grade counselor that he was going to be an NBA player.

"She said she couldn't put that down, so I said `Leave it blank, 'cause that's what I'm going to do.' "

Then there are others who weren't so sure. Philadelphia's Manute Bol, the 7-foot-7 Dinka tribesman from the Sudan, says he never dreamed of being in his position. "When I came out of college (Bridgeport), people said I was too skinny to play in this league," he told the Philadelphia Daily News' Phil Jasner. "A lot of those people, when they see me now, say they were wrong.

"I've been in the league six years, but I know where I could have been. I could have been a farmer, I might be dead by now. Sometimes, when I see people down, I think about that. I remember when I came to this country, I had no family. If I wanted to ride a bus, take a train, I could not, because I had no money.

"Now, I have a better job than even the president."

The Jazz's Scott Layden is one of the best-regarded Directors of Player Personnel in the NBA, so, predictably, his name has been rumored to be among the considerations for the New York Knicks' position.

Layden worked with the Knicks' new President, Dave Checketts, when Checketts was in the Jazz front office.

Neither Checketts nor Layden will comment on the situation, but Layden said this week that he "definitely" had not been contacted by Checketts. He went on to point out that in order to be considered, Checketts would need to go through Jazz G.M. Tim Howells for permission.

"I'm under contract," said Layden. "I'm very happy with my position and I feel I'm very lucky to be where I am."

Meanwhile, Howells said last week that he hadn't been contacted by the Knicks about permission to talk with Layden.

If Layden is considered for the job, getting together won't be a problem. He was scheduled to be in New York this weekend to scout the Big East Tournament at the same time the Jazz were there to play the Knicks.

He remains the only Chicago Bulls player to have his number retired. Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan returned to Chicago last week to find his name in the news once again. A Chicago Sun-Times article detailed the recollections of team statistician Bob Rosenberg, who rated Sloan a starter on his All-time Bulls team.

Other choices were Michael Jordan, Bob Love, Chet Walker and Artis Gilmore.

Sloan also made Rosenberg's list for top Bulls' coaches, but barely. He ranked Sloan fifth, behind Dick Motta, Phil Jackson, Doug Collins and Ed Badger.

They were called the Bad Boys for a while, and the Detroit Pistons never were liked during their two championship seasons. Opponents complained about the tactics of Rick Mahorn and then Bill Laimbeer and the haughty attitude of Isiah Thomas.

Bad boys? Bad guys?

Hardly.

The Pistons are going to do something no other National Basketball Association team ever has done. They are going to wear black patches for the rest of the season to honor a journalist.

They'll do it for Shelby Strother, a columnist for the Detroit News who died of liver cancer last week, just one week after he was diagnosed as having the disease.

"It's like everything in life," said Pistons coach Chuck Daly. "We take people too much for granted. . . . It's a real loss to the sports world and this community. The guy had real talent."

This report includes some materials from other news sources.