In the latest installment of the Mailman's yearly contract quest, All-Star forward Karl Malone agreed to a 10-year, $18 million deal with the Jazz Friday.

Guard Bobby Hansen agreed to a five-year contract, leaving Jazz president-general manager David Checketts halfway toward his goal of signing four important players to longer deals before the start of the NBA season. Talks with John Stockton and Thurl Bailey will continue into the season. "Very little has happened while we've all waited for Karl," said David Falk, Stockton's attorney.Having left his agent last summer, Malone did his own contract. "Not one time did it ever get scary," Malone said. "I think they respected me as a player and a person."

Malone's third contract comes at the start of his fourth season. According to his original four-year deal, he was scheduled to make $300,000. In the second year of the six-year contract he signed in October 1987, he would have earned $850,000.

His 1988-89 salary, with the new deal: $1.3 million. That's what Boston's Kevin McHale made last season.

Malone informally agreed with Jazz owner Larry Miller last summer to a contract extension, effective at the end of his exisiting contract. When Cleveland guard Mark Price, among others, signed a deal for more than $1 million a season, Malone decided he wanted more money up front and went back to Miller and Checketts just before the start of trianing camp in October.

"Now, my contract won't be an issue again," said Malone.

But Malone's frequent requests - and the latest deal - leave questions: When will he be dissatisfied again? Do contracts mean anything these days? How will Malone's contract affect Stockton and Bailey?

"This is the first contract I've had with the Jazz that I feel is fair for both sides," said Malone. "After a while, you have to draw the line. I just wanted a deal that was fair."

Bill Blakeley, Malone's former agent, said last season, "The way he is now, he's never going to be satisfied. It's a scary position to be in."

Malone and Hansen bring the Jazz close to the NBA minimum payroll, but they still have to pay more. "I certainly hope there's something left for John and Thurl," said Bob Woolf, Bailey's attorney.

Stockton (scheduled salary: $278,000) and Bailey ($600,000) have three and four years, respectively, left on their contracts. While Checketts contends that tearing up a contract gives them leverage, Falk says, "That would be a total contradiction to the approach they took in Karl's case . . . it clearly demonstrates that you can throw those out the window where the player's value is clearly beyond that phase."

Checketts will argue that Malone is a special player, but Stockton did join him on the all-NBA second team last season and is rated as high at his position as Malone. "The equities are very, very strong," says Falk. "I don't expect he's going to be paid exactly what Karl's been paid, but I certainly expect that Larry Miller will want to treat John in the same flavor and manner he treated Karl."