All season long, while the Jazz rookies are handling the baggage on road trips, Eric Johnson can thank Blue Edwards for giving him a job. Because Edwards is playing forward, Coach Jerry Sloan is keeping an extra point guard.

The Jazz waived point guard Joe Hillman and forward Raymond Brown Monday afternoon, keeping point guards Johnson and Jim Les and second-year forward Jose Ortiz, who has a guaranteed $450,000 contract but is not expected to play much.So the Jazz reached the NBA limit of 12 players well before Thursday's roster deadline, leaving a chance for more moves. Sloan suggests the Jazz will keep looking for a deal involving Ortiz, noting, "Maybe something will come along that will be better for him; I'm hoping so, from his standpoint. He needs to be on the floor."

Said Ortiz, "He understands that I want to play - I'm happy he knows that."

The thing is, other NBA teams have the same ideas about trades this week. "Most of the conversations are people trying to unload players for draft picks," said player personnel director Scott Layden. "The possibility of a player-for-player deal right now is slim."

Of course, the Jazz could always find a different point guard on waivers and cut Johnson or Les.

Aside from Edwards, who was drafted as a guard but is now the starting small forward, the Jazz still have five guards. Johnson and Les will play only about 10 minutes a game between them - but part of Sloan's logic is to cut down John Stockton's practice time. "He's that valuable to us," Sloan said.

Les and Johnson tried to avoid guessing how many point guards Sloan would keep. Brown, meanwhile, was surprised about Monday's moves, after having survived the early eliminations among the forwards. "That's when I really felt good about the chances I had," he noted.

With Brown gone, Johnson becomes the success story of the summer. Undrafted and invited to rookie-free agent camp, he knocked out second-round draft choice Junie Lewis and Hillman, another free agent. "I'm taking it like I'm still trying to make the club," he said.

Of Hillman, Sloan said, "His ballhandling wasn't quite ready for this league; he pretty much agreed."

After playing 82 games last season and having to make the team again, Les will still have to compete with Johnson for the nightly job of backing up Stockton. "I was confident coming to camp that I had improved myself and done the things I needed to, to keep my job," Les noted.


(Additional information)

Jazz roster

After opening training camp with 18 players, the Jazz are down to the NBA limit of 12, but could still change the final roster before Thursday night:


Joe Hillman G Indiana

Raymond Brown F Idaho

Rory White F S. Alabama

Reggie Turner F Ala. Birmingham

Junie Lewis G S. Alabama

Randy Henry F Middle Tenn. St.


Eric Johnson G Nebraska

Jim Les G Bradley

Jose Ortiz F Oregon State