Just like the Jazz players last April, an exclusive media panel had to decide between Karl Malone and John Stockton for the MVP of the NBA All-Star Game Sunday.

The issue: What would Malone be without Stockton? The players chose Stockton for the award at a chamber of commerce dinner last spring, causing mild controversy. Sunday's panel went with Malone - partly because only five of Stockton's assists went to Malone and Stockton also had 12 turnovers.Still, this was a landmark day for Stockton, who filled in for Magic Johnson and played a team-high 32 minutes as the West's only point guard. In his first All-Star appearance, Stockton played his usual game. "Every time they turned around, he was right there on their heels, pushing the ball up the floor," said Jazz teammate Mark Eaton.

"He's going to be an All-Star for a long time," said the West's Tom Chambers.

The East's Isiah Thomas was wishing Magic Johnson had played, but he has no lack of respect for Stockton. "He's a joy to watch and hell to play against," said Thomas, facing Stockton for the first time this season. "You're never surprised how great he is; it's something we've always known, in trying to guard him."

Not overwhelmed by the All-Star atmosphere, Stockton patiently handled questions from waves of reporters all weekend. His only trouble came when an NBA public relations official lectured him for saying he thought the All-Star Saturday events should be for "NBA players only," instead of including Soviet three-point shooter Rimas Kurtinaitis. Otherwise, Stockton thrived on the pressuresituation.

"To me, this is what'll make or break the weekend," he said before the game.> Later, he said, "Definitely, I didn't want to come out here and be embarrassed, (but) I didn't worry about it. It wasn't a do-or-die situation."> Eaton played only nine minutes as one of four West centers, with most of the attention on Houston's Akeem Olajuwon and the departing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Eaton took no shots, but had five rebounds and two blocks and enjoyed the weekend. Picking up his winners' share check for $5,000, he said, "Not bad for nine minutes' work."

And who would Eaton have voted for Sunday? "It would have been a tossup," he said, smiling.