And now, for a comment about the Utah Jazz's opening-night flop in the Salt Palace, we take you live to the Jazz locker room and Karl Malone. Karl? Karl? Are you there? Uh, say, Karl?

Well, uh, it seems Malone isn't speaking at the moment, sports fans, so sit tight while we switch you live to the Golden State Warriors' locker room, where we have Larry Smith, the man who silenced Malone on the court. Larry? Are you there? What'd you think of tonight's performance? Uh, Lar?Well, um, hmmm, it seems Larry isn't speaking either, and, since no one is volunteering to remind him that his silence violates a team rule, let's return to the Jazz locker room for an update. It's been a full 15 minutes since the game ended, and still there is no sign of Malone. Well, actually he was seen once, briefly. Moments after the locker room was opened and a herd of reporters rushed in, Malone, wrapped smartly in a white terry cloth robe, rushed out, heading the other way for the shower.

That left some 12 reporters standing around talking to each other, pacing, looking anxiously at their watches, checking and rechecking their mini-cams - Lights, camera, . . . action? - waiting for Malone to return from the shower/training room area. And they waited and waited and waited. By the time Malone returned 25 minutes later, only four reporters remained. They approached Malone, oh, about the same way a poodle sidles up to a pit bull.

"Are you talking?" one of them ventured to ask.


And with that the reporters beat a quick path for the door.

That was Malone's quote for the night.

He said more to the R.C. Willey pad he ripped off the basket standard.

Alas, another Silent Treatment has begun. Carrying on a playoff tradition that began with Frank Layden two years ago and resumed last year, Malone has made it clear he's not talking. "I don't want any other outside distractions," he explained earlier in the week. Asked Wednesday about post-game interviews, Malone said, "Depends on the mood."

And his mood was blue. In Thursday night's 123-119 loss to the Warriors, Malone, with or without outside distractions, had one of his most difficult outings of the season. He finished with a fine 22 points and 13 rebounds - but 10 those points and 7 boards came in the fourth quarter. He also had just one dunk, near the end of the game - and no fist-pumping celebrations.

Until the fourth quarter, Malone was, well, silent. For the record, he had one forgettable first quarter: 0 points, 1 rebound, 2 turnovers. He didn't score until the 8:02 mark of the second quarter. By halftime he had 6 points (one field goal) and 5 rebounds, having hit 1 of 5 from the field.

To be sure, Malone, who has had a brilliant season, was the man on the spot Thursday. "We had five guys around him all night," said Golden State coach Don Nelson. "We double-teamed him and triple-teamed him and tried not to let him get a good position. That's the only way we thought we could handle him."

Malone spent most the night trying to push past Smith or 7-foot-7 Manute Bol to establish position inside. When the Jazz could even get the ball to him down low, another defender or two was ready to collapse on him, which was a big reason he committed 7 turnovers.

"They did a good job on Karl," said guard Bobby Hansen. "They were real physical with him and the refs let them do it. They were pushing him off the block (away from the basket) and collapsing on him from the outside."

Said Mark Eaton, the Jazz center, "We kept trying to force things in to Karl, rather than swing the ball around and be a little more patient. I'm sure Karl was frustrated."

It is a measure of Malone's talents that the Jazz were rendered ineffective much of the night without his usual contributions. But given his performance this season, Malone isn't likely to be down long. "Things didn't go real well for Karl tonight, but he'll bounce right back," said Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan. "That's the kind of player he is."