The color was purple. It wasn't Jeff Malone's usual shade.

Malone sat in a restaurant yesterday, wearing a T-shirt that had "Property of the Utah Jazz Basketball Team" enscribed in purple lettering on a gray background. His car and house keys were on a Utah Jazz key chain. He talked about Karl Malone and John Stockton, two of his new teammates, and about Thurl Bailey coming off the bench.

Malone is not looking back on his seven seasons with the Washington Bullets. In town for three weeks before moving to Salt Lake City, he talked extensively for the first time since the two-time all-star guard was traded to Utah June 25. That was part of a three-team deal that brought second-year center Pervis Ellison to the Bullets.

The finality of the deal was brought home Wednesday when Malone sold his home in Glenn Dale. His brother, Elvin, with whom he's shared that residence, is moving to Macon, Ga., to start a development company with their father, Elvin Sr.

Since the trade, Malone has talked with Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan about Utah's system, and he's been pleased with what he heard.

"I was waiting for this the last two or three years," Malone said. "I was looking forward to it. That's why when they called me in the {Atlanta} airport {to tell him about the trade}, it wasn't like I was shocked. I was ready. . . . It's a different atmosphere out there. When I was out there, the fans all welcomed me. The way they love basketball out there is incredible."

That, Malone implied, was in sharp contrast with the empty seats that had become a part of his existence at Capital Centre. When there were sellouts, the crowd frequently began the game rooting for the other teams. It became difficult for Malone to listen.

"I've had moments where going to the arena, the feeling that I had the first two or three years {was gone}," he said. "You know you're playing against a Charlotte or an Orlando, and you know 6,000 or 7,000 people are going to be there. We were able to look out and see the seats, and after being there a time, you just get into a mode where you go, 'Oh, boy, I've got another game tonight.'

"It was almost to the point where sometimes I liked to play on the road, in arenas where I know it's going to be packed. It gets you pumped up. You go to arenas like Indiana, they have a lot of fans. You just like to play in front of a lot of people. I used to tell the guys to keep their heads up, it's going to get better."

Malone said it could be "two, three, four more years" before the Bullets become contenders, despite the Ellison deal. Still, he agreed the club had to do something, that it wouldn't have gone much further with him or simply because of the return to health of injured forward John Williams.

"I think they had to make a move," he said. "I think they did the right thing. We didn't have a first-round pick. Who could they have gotten without a pick? If John had come back and been productive, it still would have been tough."

In a town dominated by the Redskins, Malone's career average of 20.2 points on 47 percent shooting went virtually unnoticed. Because the Bullets were around .500 for most of his career, Malone feels, his reputation suffered. To be sure, his first name has often seemed to be "One-Dimensional," as in "the one-dimensional Jeff Malone."

"No question about it," he said. "People don't realize how tough it is playing in a situation like this. You have to go out every night, and when you're the leading scorer, some nights you don't get it. We never had inside games a whole lot.

"Moses {Malone} came here, but he was kind of on his way down, and {Jeff} Ruland stayed hurt. I was always doubled and bumped. And people looked at me. Guys on the other team used to tell me they got told, 'Cover Malone and cover Bernard King.'

"I would like to see a lot of 'two' guards be in the situation I was in for seven years and see how they deal with it, like Byron Scott {and} all those guys who have the luxury of playing with great teams. It's tough."

Now, Malone has two all-stars in Stockton, who has set league records in assists the past couple of seasons, and Karl Malone, the lane-filling forward who resembles a runaway bus. The Jazz have needed consistency at the off-guard spot for several seasons, as veteran Darrell Griffith has gotten older and Bobby Hansen, now dealt to Sacramento as part of the trade, ran hot and cold.

He said he had mentioned Utah to ex-teammate Darrell Walker as a possible new team during the playoffs.

"I called him and said, 'You know what? There are teams I think I could help out,' " he said. "Houston, Cleveland and Utah. I really felt that way. Teams that are winning and have good foundations. I have respect for Bobby {Hansen}. Bobby's a player. But I thought Utah will need some scoring . . . what about another guard averaging 18 or 19?"

He said he didn't ask to be traded, nor would he have demanded a deal if the team didn't decide to extend his contract, which has a year to run and paid him slightly more than $900,000 last season. He does hope that the Jazz will do something for him before it expires.

Malone won't return here until March 6. He said it will feel strange to go to the visitors' locker room.

"I wonder how that guy is going to react behind the bench," said Malone, referring to a season ticket holder who sits behind the opposition bench and spends the night spewing high-decibel patter.

"Ledell {Eackles} scores a basket and he's going to be like, 'That's why we traded you, Jeff Malone.' Now that's going to be interesting right there."