San Antonio forward Robert Horry may not be the ultimate authority, but he does have perspective. He was around back when the Jazz had their original one-two combination. He saw John Stockton and Karl Malone run their plays enough times to call them out in his sleep.

If any Spurs player has the right to say, "Sir, I knew Karl Malone, and you're no Karl Malone!" it's Horry. He played against Malone and Stockton for 12 years as a member of the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.

So naturally, he would be one to ask about whether the Jazz's newest tag team of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer is as good as the original combination or just a shiny new knockoff. Horry's unbiased opinion: Look out.

Boozer and Williams are — or will soon be — better.

"If Stockton and Malone were 100 percent, I think they're like 90 percent," Horry told the San Antonio Express-News. "Boozer is so strong and so agile. The one thing

Boozer has over Karl is he can use both hands very well. Williams is a little bit quicker and faster and stronger than Stockton.

"It's going to take some time for them to learn how to play together ... but in a couple years, they're going to be better than Stockton and Malone, in my eyes."

Great. The concrete has barely set beneath the historic Jazz duo's monuments and what happens? People are already talking about two potential superstars. Will the city soon be naming streets after those guys, too?

Williams-to-Boozer Honda can't be far behind.

With the Jazz continuing in the Western Conference Finals, Saturday, it's inevitable that comparisons would arise. Even though Williams/Boozer have only been a serious threat for one season, they have been impressive, and at times even great. Weird, isn't it? Jerry Sloan having another deadly forward-guard combination to run his system.

Certainly Horry has some valid points. Williams is stronger than Stockton, and even quicker than his predecessor was late in his career. But it's debatable whether Williams is quicker than Stockton was in his prime. Williams is averaging slightly fewer assists.

Williams can use size to go stronger to the basket than Stockton. His rebounds were a shade better this year than Stockton's career stats, and he is clearly more willing to use scoring as a threat. But Williams doesn't get as many steals (though part of that could be because he has no Mark Eaton as a safety measure) and is averaging slightly more turnovers.

Essentially, though, their numbers are the same. And they share the same unhealthy fixation on winning.

Meanwhile, as Horry noted, Boozer does use his left hand better than Malone. He has a better fade-away shot and is about equal as a rebounder (Malone averaged fewer rebounds than Boozer did this year, but Eaton took away a fair share of rebounds from Malone). Yet no power forward ever ran in transition better than Malone. And Boozer doesn't come close to Malone's defense (he was a first team all-defensive player three times, second team once).

Malone could shut down even high-scoring opponents such as David Robinson, Derrick Coleman and Charles Barkley, frustrating them by constantly slapping away the ball. Conversely, Boozer still gets in trouble guarding other top forwards such as Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

So at this point, Horry is probably reaching. It's too early to tell whether Williams and Boozer really will become as good as their famous counterparts. Just keeping the new duo on the same team will be a challenge. Yes, they're interesting to watch, but they're still roughly 17 seasons shy of proving they're better than Stockton/Malone.

On the other hand, the new kids could make the debate interesting in a hurry.

All they need to do is win a championship.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com