Blame NBA commissioner David Stern for the Jazz's Game 1 loss to Golden State Thursday night. The last time Stern visited the Salt Palace, the Jazz lost Game 4 of the 1985 Western Conference semifinals to Denver.

Stern came to town after spending Monday and Tuesday in Los Angeles with team owners for the annual NBA Board of Governors meeting. He'll be in Phoenix tonight for Game 1 of the Suns-Denver series, in New York Saturday for Game 2 of the Knicks-Philadelphia series and in Boston Tuesday for Game 3 of the Celtics-Detroit series.Before the Jazz's loss pushed aside - for the moment, anyway - any thoughts of them reaching the NBA Finals, Stern was insisting the league could handle having a small-market team in its showcase event. "It doesn't matter what team is in it," he said. "We've spent five years getting to that point . . . I think we're there."

One year after the loosing of free-agent rules and the promise of major annual raising of the salary cap, Stern noted, "I have concerns about small-market teams . . . they have to look at their arena situations. It's becoming essential."

Milwaukee is playing in a new building and Phoenix and the Jazz both have plans in the works. Becuase of that, Stern said of small-market teams' outlook, "It won't be a terribly serious problem at least for the next several years."