Friday's game-winning play gave the Jazz the first season-series victory (3-1) over the Lakers in franchise history and brought up that old question: Who's the Jazz MVP - Karl Malone or John Stockton?

The Jazz players had to answer that question last April, resulting in some in-house controversy. How do we know that? Because the Jazz front office changed the balloting for this year's awards, leaving the voting to fans via ballots in newspaper advertisements."That way, there wouldn't be any hard feelings among the players," said vice-president David Allred.

Stockton won the MVP award over Malone last spring. While the players know better than to criticize the idea of Monday's Chamber of Commerce banquet, they're not sold on awards - especially postseason awards, in April.

"Anytime you have a team thing and you start handing out individual awards, you risk hurting someone's feelings," said co-captain Mark Eaton. "I don't think it's a healthy thing during the season."

Said Stockton, "My feeling is, skip the awards, period. If it's their intent to honor us, I think they can do it without the awards."

Added Malone, "On this team, we know how much we mean to each other. Isn't that enough?"

The awards will go on, as scheduled - $50 a plate, guest speaker Frank Deford and nice video highlights. At least, Malone won't spend the rest of the season looking around the locker room, wondering who didn't vote for him. He's sure to win the MVP award from the fans.


TRAVEL PLANS: Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan has a 2-5 record as a travel agent. The Jazz won two of three games this season after Sloan brought them home in the middle of trips, rather than spend two days off in a city before the game, as planned. But they lost all four times when Sloan had them arrive the day of the game, when they could have traveled the previous day.

"I just think our players like it better; that's one of the reasons I did it," Sloan said. "I really believe that in the long haul, the more nights you spend in your own bed, the better off you're going to be."

The players seem to agree.

"I still think it's a good idea," Eaton says of Sloan's school of travel. "It's so easy to get stale, sitting around in the hotels."

While trainer/traveling secretary Don Sparks is booking all kinds of possible flights, Sloan is still considering day-of-game arrivals for the playoffs.


AT RANDOM: Six Jazzmen still have a chance to play all 82 games this season. The previous franchise high was four players, last season. Stockton has played in 403 straight and Malone in 316, the longest active streaks in the NBA . . . The Lakers were 0-7 at Seattle, Phoenix and Utah before winning big at Seattle Tuesday. "Going into Utah and Phoenix and not winning, we felt we had to break through," Coach Pat Riley told the L.A. Times. "To show ourselves, not anyone else, that we can win on the road." . . .

Charlotte was campaigning for Kelly Tripucka to win the NBA's most improved player award, but the instructions on the ballots sent to the 85-member media panel will probably keep Tripucka from winning - and save the Jazz some embarrassment. The ballot reads, "This award is designed to honor an up and coming player who has made a dramatic improvement in his game from previous seasons. It is not intended to be given to a player who made a `comeback'; rather, it is intended to honor a younger player who has improved his game." . . . Having lost at least 55 pounds, Layden was scheduled to play with Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors in Tuesday's tennis exhibition. Layden pulled out, though, for fear of injury. Jazz GM David Checketts and broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley are expected to play. Last season, John Stockton and Bobby Hansen played with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova . . .

Speaking of awards, Charlotte Coach Dick Harter endorses Patrick Ewing for MVP; Sacramento's Jerry Reynolds likes Mark Price. Harter: "(Ewing) is a superior player. No, he's the best in the game." Reynolds: "There's a rule that little bitty guys won't get it, but (Price) is deserving as anybody. He's not as good a passer as John Stockton, but he's a better offensive player. He's so quick you need a brick to smack him upside the head to stop him." . . .

Apparently satisfied with the Jazz's ruling, the local Associated Press bureau has re-assigned the female quote-gatherer who was barred from the team locker room last week. Her replacement Tuesday was another woman, who drew no complaints from the Jazz players. "I hope the players never make that request again," said Allred. "I do think it was an isolated situation."