Few NBA players draw more verbal taunts from fans than the Jazz's Karl Malone. But as he has often said, it's part of the job. "We're in the entertainment business."

Last Tuesday in Portland a woman called out to Malone, "Hey, Mailman, you're beautiful." He turned and winked."Usually you take this game as a business, but I think sometimes you have to say something to the fans. We're in the entertainment business," said Malone. "Besides, it's better than everyone being quiet."

The Mailman praised the Portland crowd as being "respectful" and said Blazer fans have the "ability to acknowledge a great play."

A word of warning to opposing fans, though: don't get him started. "Sometimes there will be a guy yappin' at me from the front row and it gets me going," he says.Once the new Jazz arena is finished this October, the Portland Trail Blazers will be playing in the smallest arena in the NBA.

But not for long. Last week, Blazer officials announced plans for construction of a new multipurpose arena near their current home in Memorial Coliseum. The building, which will cost about $125 million, is expected to be finished by September 1994 and will hold 16,000 to 20,000 people. By comparison, the new Jazz arena costs about $60 million and will have around 20,000 seats.

Portland's arena will be a jump from the 12,884-seat Memorial Coliseum. The Salt Palace seats 12,616.

After the Blazers finish their building, Seattle's 14,250-seat arena will be the league's smallest.It was one of the oddest calls of the playoffs so far. In Game 1, Jazz guard John Stockton was nailed in the head by a Buck Williams elbow. Stockton fell to the floor and got up slowly.

Initially, the referee called it an offensive foul on Stockton - prompting a technical on Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan - then changed to a foul on Williams.

"Buck Williams threw an elbow at Stockton," Sloan said. "I was upset because I didn't like what I saw. Then the foul was called on John."

Though the call was corrected, it was too late to reverse the technical on Sloan.

Sloan said whatever the call, he was looking out for his player. "I always believe in standing up for the little guy."

Said Stockton, "I'm just about the height of the average NBA player's elbows."San Antonio's Sean Elliott apparently isn't a big fan of the going hairstyles in the Bay Area.

Writing in a San Antonio newspaper, the Spurs' Elliott chided Golden's State's Chris Mullin and Tom Tolbert for looking like professional wrestlers.

"Tolbert and Chris Mullin don't look like basketball players - even though I think Mullin is a great basketball player," wrote Elliott.

"They do look like professional wrestlers. All you can do is put a ski mask on those guys, put them in some Speedos and they're a tag team. Then you could call them the Warriors. I think Tolbert's butt is too big to get into a Speedo, though."Though Jazz forward Thurl Bailey's is shooting only .333 in the playoffs this year, his problems appear to be uncharacteristic when compared to his past. In seven previous playoff years - ever since the Jazz began making the playoffs - Bailey averaged 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds a game.

In 1989 he made only 12 of 34 shots (.353) and in 1986 he hit 28 of 77 field goals (.364). But overall he has improved in the playoffs, scoring 16.8 points in the post-season, compared to 15 points in the regular season.In the realism department . . .

Charlotte Coach Gene Littles on his team's seven-game improvement over last year: "It doesn't say much if Orlando wins 30. What does it say? That we're all in the lottery and hoping to get a good player. Wins are only important if it takes you somewhere."From the Boston Globe comes this observation on the new Jazz arena concessions deal with Coca-Cola:

"Just one question," writes pro basketball columnist Jackie MacMullan. "In a predominantly Mormon area, why would you sell a drink that is loaded with caffeine, which just happens to be one of the things from which Mormons abstain?"Milwaukee Bucks forward Fred Roberts is a popular person on the clinic/speaker circuit in Milwaukee, doing numerous appearances each year.

At a recent roast for teammate Jack Sikma, he said, "Herb Kohl (Bucks owner) is getting worried now that Jack's box score is beginning to read like his paycheck - a `1' followed by a bunch of zeros."This note from USA Today: Utah's Jerry Sloan is among the league leaders in technical fouls.

Sacramento's Dick Motta led the league in that category with 24, followed by Dallas' Richie Adubato and Detroit's Chuck Daly . He was followed by Phoenix's Cotton Fitzsimmons, Chicago's Phil Jackson and the Jazz's Sloan with 12 apiece.

Boston's Chris Ford was on best behavior in his rookie season, having not earned a single technical foul.The Mailman one of the alltime greats? Celtics' President Red Auerbach thinks so.

Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum recently asked Auerbach to name the 10 players "whom he would most want in the playoffs." Auerbach picked 12, among them being Karl Malone.

"The thing that sets him apart from Bob Pettit and Elgin Baylor," wrote Auerbach, "is that he runs the floor like a big guard."

This column includes materials gathered from outside news sources.