Karl Malone did the old Arsenio Hall show a couple of times. He's sat on Jay Leno's couch, too.

But on Thursday night he hits Broadway for the first time. The Mailman, in the midst of the Utah Jazz's five-game road trip, will be a guest on the "Late Show with David Letterman" during an off day between games in Boston and New Jersey."I hope he's not expecting me to wear something fancy," said Malone of his first-ever appearance with Letterman. "I got what I wear, and that's what I'll wear - my jeans, my cowboy boots and my Karl Malone Toyota shirt. . . . I'm just going to go on and be a smart (aleck) like he is."

Malone says he enjoys being on the late-night talk shows, but he knows the coming trip will be business first.

"We're starting to play well as a team, but we're not back to where we want to be yet," said Malone. "I'm curious to see how we'll do on the road. I'm excited to go out and kind of get away to concentrate on basketball. When you're at home you've got a lot of ways you need to use your time, but when you're on the road it's kind of like an `us against the world' attitude we have."

The trip begins Sunday afternoon in Houston and ends Saturday night in Milwaukee. It's the first of two extended road trips in March for the Jazz. The Midwest Division leaders play 17 games during the month, 12 away from the Delta Center.

"We have a very difficult schedule in March, but I'm anxious and excited about it," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "I want to find out who we are. Are we going to be a team that will be happy to play .500, or are we going to go out there every game with the attitude that we're going to win?"

Last season the Jazz went 14-1 in March - their best record ever in a month. It was also road intensive, as 11 of the games were away, including a seven-game trip in which the Jazz went 6-1 with only a narrow loss in Atlanta keeping the trip from being perfect.

"We've always been a team that plays well in the second half (of the season)," said Malone. "We have some tough games coming up here, but if we play our game, we'll be fine. It's a lot of time away from home, but it's a time when you get your mind right for the stretch run."

The Jazz, winners of eight of their last nine games, are one game ahead of the Spurs in the Midwest Division. They are also neck-and-neck with the Lakers for the second-best record in the Western Conference and within striking distance of the Sonics.But Utah hasn't been a great road team this season, with only a 13-11 mark on the year.

"It's a huge test for us," said Greg Foster of the upcoming trip. "We don't want to have slippage. It is too tight right now, and we can't afford to lose games."

The first trip features only two teams that would qualify for the playoffs if they started today - Houston and Keith Van Horn-led New Jersey. The Nets, in fact, are the only team that has a record better than .500 - although everyone knows the Rockets, now that Hakeem Olajuwon is back, are better than their record. Boston and Milwaukee are also teams with plenty of talent and the capability to beat any other team.

"If you look at our schedule since the all-star break, we've been playing quality teams," said Adam Keefe. "It will now get more difficult since the games will be on the road, but - I know it's an old cliche - but we do a lot better if we don't look at a big segment of games and just take them one at a time."


Additional Information

Sunday NBC Houston 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday FSR Toronto 5:00 p.m.

Wednesday KJZZ/TBS Boston 6:00 p.m.

Friday FSR New Jersey 5:30 p.m.

Saturday KJZZ Milwaukee 7:00 p.m.