Talkative bunch, these Lakers.

Hardly a word was spoken as they filed into the University Park Hotel Friday night."Go talk to (Greg) Ostertag or somebody," muttered Shaquille O'Neal.

And that was it, the lone comment as Utah's opponent in the Western Conference finals arrived in Salt Lake City shortly after 6 p.m.

The Lakers didn't stop to speak with reporters, nor did they sign autographs for the 50 or so well-wishers who had gathered at the hotel to greet the team bus.

L.A., it seems, is taking a business-like approach into the best-of-seven series with the Jazz.

"All we want is what they have," Kobe Bryant said before the team left California.

And what the Jazz have is the Western Conference crown, a prize that has eluded the Lakers since 1991.

AT RICK'S HOUSE: Because the downtown Marriott hotel was booked, the Lakers were forced to find other accommodations in Salt Lake City. No problem. There was plenty of room at Rick Majerus' place - the University Park Hotel. And besides L.A. coach Del Harris was going there anyway to eat dinner with his friend of many years. The coaches once worked together as assistants to Don Nelson with the Milwaukee Bucks.

NBC'S NIGHTMARE: Karl Malone, being a businessman himself, understands why NBC would prefer, for the sake of ratings, big-market star-laden teams like the Lakers and Bulls to advance rather than the small market Jazz and Pacers.

"I'm sure if they could have their ideal picture it would be L.A. against Chicago (in the Finals)," said Malone. "You don't think they'd want to have the Jazz and Indiana, do you?"

That's sort of like asking if NBC would rather have new episodes of "Seinfeld" or "Suddenly Susan."

The Jazz and Bulls pulled outstanding ratings in the Finals last year - but that was largely due to the broad appeal of Michael Jordan. The Bulls would get good ratings against any other team - but if Shaquille O'Neal and the Lakers get in to play Chicago, it might be the most-watched NBA Finals in history.

A Jazz-Pacers Finals, however, could do just the opposite to the ratings numbers.

UNIQUE OPPONENT: Eddie Jones is confident Utah won't try to run the floor with the Lakers in the same fashion Seattle did in the semifinals.

"I think the Jazz are a totally different team. They're unlike any other team in the league," Jones said. "We know the Jazz are not going to play an uptempo game with us."

KEEPING MUM & TALKING AWAY: Greg Ostertag, who made a name for himself in the NBA last year by playing well against O'Neal in the conference semifinals, is not talking to the media this week. He said only that he'll start talking again if he has a good game against the Lakers today.

Ostertag and O'Neal got in a verbal war during last year's series that carried over into the off-season. The battle of words turned physical on Halloween when O'Neal slapped Ostertag to the ground - dislodging the Jazz center's contact lens in the process - at the morning shootaround before the season opener.

Ostertag was talking to any media members who would listen in the previous two rounds of the playoffs. Perhaps he's only trying to avoid the unavoidable questions concerning Shaq and the slap.

Karl Malone, meanwhile, is talking away. He had a short vow of silence with the media prior to the Houston series, but has since been as accommodating as usual. After meeting the press following Friday morning's practice, Malone thanked the assembled media for "not even asking me about that Del Harris (junk)."

The Lakers coach, of course, made headlines earlier in the week by saying Malone commits flagrant fouls with his feet while going up for shots.

WHO SAID THAT?: Corie Blount, yes THE Corie Blount, told national radio host Jim Rome Thursday that the Lakers were capable of sweeping the Jazz. The odds of that happening, however, may be as long as the forward seeing quality time in the series. The fifth-year pro played an average of 14.3 minutes per game during the regular season, averaging 3.6 points and 4.3 rebounds.