Troubled Marvericks C Leon Smith took a step yesterday toward straightening out his life and restarting his once-promising NBA career.

Smith, under suspension by the Mavericks and likely to soon become a free agent, checked out of a local psychiatric ward and moved to Houston to begin workouts with former NBA star Moses Malone.

Smith, 19, who was raised as a ward of Illinois after being estranged from his parents at age 5, will live in a furnished apartment arranged for by the NBA Players Association and will continue receiving counseling.

Mavericks President Terdema Ussery said yesterday the team and the players' union are close to completing a deal that would terminate Smith's three-year, $1.45 million contract. The union filed a grievance over Smith's suspension on Wednesday.

* PUNISHED: The NBA suspended Mavericks Coach Don Nelson one game and fined him and Jazz F Karl Malone $10,000 each for their parts in two incidents during Thursday's game between the teams. Nelson was cited for bumping referee Scott Wall, and will sit out today's home game against Atlanta.

Malone was fined for throwing an elbow to the head of Mavericks C Shawn Bradley and engaging in the confrontation with Nelson.