Karl Malone is hedging on his promise to stay home from the NBA All-Star Game unless Jazz teammate John Stockton is also selected - but he'll likely wear Stockton's No. 12 in the game if he goes by himself.

Malone trailed only Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in the fan balloting, announced Thursday. In his second All-Star appearance, Feb. 12 in Houston, he'll join Western Conference starters Alex English of Denver, Akeem Olajuwon of Houston, Dale Ellis of Seattle and Johnson. Malone received 760,168 votes, proving his national appeal, because the Jazz sent in fewer than 250,000 ballots."It's a good feeling, knowing that people around the country know who you are," Malone said before the Jazz's 89-88 loss to Charlotte.

As for his pledge last spring to only go to the 1989 All-Star Game with Stockton, Malone said, smiling, "I'm not making any comment - that's the way I want to leave it."

Later, though, Malone said he was toying with another way to honor Stockton, by wearing his number in the game. Last season, deferring to Johnson, who also wears No. 32, Malone wore No. 7 in tribute to the late Pete Maravich.

"That's Mailman for you," said Stockton. "No matter what happens, I want him to go there and show what a good team we have."

Stockton, meanwhile, came close enough in the voting to figure in some controversy. This week, Seattle team officials admitted to having employees stuff the box with about 60,000 ballots; the NBA office said it had no policy prohibiting that. Ellis finished only 24,000 votes ahead of Stockton for the second starting guard position.

As for his chances of being selected by the Western Conference coaches, who will vote Monday, Stockton said, "Thinking about it would just mess me up . . . there are too many good players on this team and in the league who could make it."> Center Mark Eaton also has a decent shot at a first All-Star selection, having finished second to Olajuwon in the voting. The other contenders are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Portland's Kevin Duckworth. "I know they've got to go with Kareem," said Eaton. "I figure my chances are about as good as last year."

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The Jazz decided not to sign point guard Corey Gaines to a 10-day contract. Because of Gaines' mild knee injury, the Jazz were not satisfied with the results of his physical exam.

"I don't think he can be effective on it now, and there's a chance it could get worse," said general manager David Checketts. If Gaines were injured, even while on a 10-day contract, the Jazz would have to pay him for the rest of the season.

Gaines will return to Quad City of the CBA while the Jazz's search for a new 12th man continues. "He was No. 1 on our list - we've got three other guys we want to evaluate," said Checketts.