Utah Jazz basketball operations chief Scott Layden expects to make a decision Friday or Saturday on whether to exercise an option with Orlando for the 13th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, which is scheduled for June 24 in Vancouver.

Under terms of the deal, which sent Felton Spencer to the Magic two years ago, the Jazz must inform Orlando of their intentions 10 days before the draft. If Utah decides not to take the pick this year, it'll automatically get it next year.Layden declined to comment on specifics, but acknowledged several factors are weighing into his decision. These include whether Orlando will be better or worse next season (which determines draft position) and salary cap con-sid-er-ations.

The prospect of obtaining University of Utah center Michael Dol-e-ac, however, isn't one of them.

"I think he's one of the factors in that early first round, but my sense tells me he'll go before (13th)," Layden said before taking in another day of action at the NBA's pre-draft camp. "I don't think he'll be there. I really don't. And he shouldn't be considering how des-per-ate-ly teams need big guys."

GO FIGURE: Before Michael Jordan retired from basketball to pursue a baseball career, the Bulls did most of their damage in the NBA Finals on the road. Over Chicago's first three championships (1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93), the Bulls were 8-1 on the road and 4-4 at home in the finals. In stark contrast, the post-baseball Jordan era has brought about a reversal of fortune. Chicago is 7-0 at the United Center and 3-5 away from it in NBA Finals appearances over the past three years.

NEW HI-JINX: There has long been talk of a Sports Illustrated jinx. Athletes featured on the cover of the national magazine have seemed to have more than their share of bad luck and woes in the field of play immediately there-after.

It seems the upstart ESPN Magazine, perhaps in wanting so much to be like SI, has begun a new jinx of it's own. The every-other-week magazine had Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers on the cover on newsstands as Los Angeles was being unceremoniously swept out of the conference finals by the Jazz.

The latest cover of the cable sports giant's new magazine has Karl Malone sitting on one of his Harleys. It no sooner came out than the Jazz lost Game 2 at home last Friday and then got blown away by the biggest margin in Finals history - 42-points - on Sunday.