I'LL GIVE YOU more reasons than Karl Malone has muscles and new hairs why Utah should win.

And I'll give you one reason the Bulls will win.I'll stack Utah advantages higher than its Wasatch Mountains. I'll sober you with the conventional wisdom provided by several NBA GMs and coaches, who believe this is Utah's time, on mountain time, to climb the title peak and look down on the over-the-hill Bulls.

I'll tell you the smart money is on the Jazz because they have home-court advantage and they're simply too good. Too athletic. Quick. Wily. Tough. Deep. Battle-tested. Rested. Hungry. Synchronized. Efficient. Well-coached. Just too much for the wheezing, sputtering, staggering Bulls.

Or so they say. I say the Bulls will beat Utah in six games because of one reason the Jazz will vehemently - but unconvincingly - deny.

They are still afraid of Michael Jordan.

Skip Bayless

Chicago Tribune

MICHAEL JORDAN was as concise as possible.

Eight days ago, the Indiana Pacers had just pulled off a stirring, last-second victory over the Chicago Bulls to even the NBA Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

And when asked whether the Pacers' victory in Market Square Arena had changed the outlook of the series, Jordan flashed his fiery stare and said, "Nope."

"It doesn't change anything," Jordan said. "They still have to come through the United Center. I don't care if it's Indiana or Utah, they still have to come through Chicago."

John Smallwood

The Philadelphia Daily News

OTHER THAN THE occasional Karl Malone dunk, or the more frequent Malone and John Stockton pick-and-roll, you don't see them on SportsCenter.

Its players aren't part of Nike's Fun Police Patrol. None of them has tried to pass himself off as a hip-hop artist or actor. None of them is called the Next Michael Jordan.

And sure, the NBA would much rather that the Lakers were about to face the Bulls.

But you have to hand it to the Utah Jazz:

In an era when crossover moves and dunks are the attention-grabbers, it knows how to play basketball the way it was designed to be played. So what if they're not part of the MTV Generation?

They're retro, back to a time when hard work, fundamentals, execution, teamwork and adhering to a coach's instructions were the expected.

Watch the Jazz and you're seeing basketball that is all about substance, not style.

Frank Burlison

Orange County Register

THE UTAH JAZZ are tired of waiting. The Chicago Bulls are just plain tired.

Those are two reasons for the pervasive suspicion that the Jazz might be a good bet to bring an end to Michael Jordan's dynasty in the NBA Finals, which begin Wednesday night at the Delta Center.

With Jordan at full strength, the Bulls have won five championships in the last seven years. Only when he was away playing baseball, or just barely back from playing his baseball, did the Bulls fail to win it all.

Now Chicago is in the midst of its "last dance" - one final run at a championship before the team is dismantled. Coach Phil Jackson seems gone for sure. Scottie Pippen expects to be playing elsewhere. And Jordan, pondering retirement, might not be playing at all.

A farewell title would be a neat wrapup for a team and player who have dominated the game in the '90s.

But the formidable Jazz stand in the way. The circumstances certainly seem to favor Utah.

Bob Baum

Associated Press

THE UTAH JAZZ have been waiting for this since Steve Kerr hit that jumper almost a year ago to give the Bulls' their fifth NBA title.

The wait got even longer because the Jazz swept the Lakers in four games, then had to wait for the Bulls to get past the Indiana Pacers.

Well, the wait is over.

Terry Armour

Chicago Tribune