Within the next week the Utah Jazz will be making a hard decision. Tony Brown's second 10-day contract will be up on Wednesday. By league rules they must either release him or sign him for the remainder of the season.

What makes the decision tough is that Brown has played fairly well for the Jazz since being signed March 1. He is averaging 2.9 points and 1.6 rebounds a game. More important, he has played 106 minutes in eight games. That's more minutes than either rookies Walter Palmer (72 minutes) or Dan O'Sullivan (83 minutes) have played all year.As the Jazz gear for the playoffs they are putting together their best 12-man team, which may include Brown.

Keeping Brown would likely mean cutting O'Sullivan, who is under contract for the rest of the year. With a two-year guaranteed contract, Palmer isn't likely to be the one that's waived.

Jazz coaches and staff have been pleased with Brown's play. "He's made it a tough decision for us," said Jazz Director of Player Personnel Scott Layden. "Certainly Tony has played well. We have made no decision yet, but we've had some preliminary discussions."

Palmer, a Dartmouth alumnus, is showing that he acquired more than basketball skills in college.

In Washington on March 6 for a game against the Bullets, some Palmer fans unfurled a banner that read, "Put Walter in."

"It was nice, but you should never end a sentence in a preposition," said Palmer.

Later on the trip a referee ran past the Jazz bench and, responding to complaints by Coach Jerry Sloan said, "Aw, you don't know nothing!"

Palmer, sitting on the sidelines, called out, "That's a double negative. It's 'don't know anything."

Jazz President Frank Layden, on the 7-foot-1, 215-pound Palmer: "He doesn't have much of a body, but boy can he spell!"

The Jazz's experience of chartering on their long March road trip is something other teams are enjoying these days, too. This year eight NBA teams either own a plane or charter all of their trips. Six others take charters 10 to 20 of their away games and seven others chartered two to 10 road games.

Former Jazzman Billy "The Whopper" Paultz on his retirement and living in Florida: "I don't surf anymore. The boards got too small for me."

Two months after Karl Malone upset Spurs' fans by trashing a promotional pinata with his number on it, he was still feeling the repercussions.

When the Jazz arrived in San Antonio last week they were greeted by a billboard on I-37 that was lined with pinatas, again wearing No. 32. Above them was a message that read, "You can't touch this . . . Karl."

Said Malone, "Fans get on me everywhere I go. If they do, they do. It will just motivate me to play harder."

Occasionally a trade will work out well for both parties. A case in point is the Olden Polynice-for-Benoit Benjamin swap between Seattle and the Clippers. The trade has both sides feeling good.

"Benoit, when he plays up to his capabilities, is one of the top three or four centers in the league," said Seattle teammate Eddie Johnson. He continued, "It's frightening. We have 10 guys capable of scoring 20 points a night . . . we can have five guys on the floor at all times who are capable of scoring. That's how the Lakers won it for years, and the Celtics before them. I'm excited about it."

Meanwhile, the Clippers' have benefittedequally from the acquisition of Polynice, who has given the team a new attitude of toughness. Said teammate Danny Manning, "I'm not a rah-rah type person. But sometimes Olden excites me."

If he continues on his current pace, the Lakers' incomparable Magic Johnson will break Oscar Robertson's all-time career assist record of 9,887.

At his current pace, Johnson will eclipse the Big O about March 29 when the Lakers host Portland.

Everyone knows Golden State's talented guard trio of Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway. But nobody had tagged them with a proper nickname until the San Francisco Examiner recently ran a contest to help pick a nickname for the trio.

Some of the 1,500 or so suggestions included "The Joint Chiefs of Stats," Heat, Meat and Sweet," and the ever-popular "The Bloodthirsty Gymrats from Hell."

The nickname that was selected was somewhat less colorful: "Run TMC."

This report includes some materials gathered from other news sources.