ATLANTA -- John Stockton laughed, rolled his eyes and looked over at teammate Mark Eaton. He lifted his hand as if he were holding something and started to speak very slowly.
"I wish I had a tape recorder in this hand," he said, "so I could just play my response over and over again. You have no idea how many times someone has asked me about Jeff Malone."
Stockton, the Utah Jazz point guard who is one of the National Basketball Association's leaders in assists, doesn't mind talking about his newest teammate. But he would rather play with him than answer any questions.
"He's come in and automatically changed the way other teams approach us," Stockton said. "He gives the opposition something new to worry about. They have to prepare for him, and that's been a big factor as far as our winning is concerned."
For seven years with the Washington Bullets, playing for teams that never quite made it over the hump, Malone was a winner. But it wasn't until he was traded during the off-season to the Jazz that he was part of a legitimate contender.
He was part of a three-way trade in which Utah sent Eric Leckner and Bobby Hansen to the Sacramento Kings for Malone, who was obtained from Washington for former NBA top pick Pervis Ellison. As soon as Malone heard the news, he was pleased.
So far, Jazz players, officials and fans couldn't be happier with the trade. Malone is Utah's second-leading scorer and the Jazz is 22-10, one game behind San Antonio in the Midwest Division.
But Malone has done more than score points. He's also helped take pressure off All-Star teammates Stockton and Karl Malone, who were the Jazz's only scoring threats last season.
"He's just made them a much better team," said Steve Luhm, a sports writer who covers the Jazz for The Salt Lake City Tribune. "The knock against the Jazz for a few years now is that they haven't had enough players who could score. They got Jeff for his scoring average, and in that regard he certainly hasn't disappointed.