Not surprisingly, Utah Jazz players have mixed feelings about spending this weekend playing hoops South of the Border.

Karl Malone, for one, was outspokenly critical of this little jaunt, which has the Jazz playing games today and Sunday against Dallas and either Cleveland or Phoenix."We've already made a statement on our basketball ability," Malone said, referring to U.S. teams' domination of international basketball competition. "What the (heck) do we need to go down there for?"

Asked what he thought about reports the NBA might consider expanding to Mexico City someday, Malone said, "I hope they don't expand for another three years." (While he's in the league, in other words.)

Jazz backup center Greg Foster took a more upbeat approach than Malone. "I'm excited about going," he said. "I've never been there."

Forward Adam Keefe said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, "I'm really looking forward to the cultural experience."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan sounded resigned to his team's fate, which he hopes doesn't include a team full of sick players.

"It's business as usual," he said. "You're never excited about taking an East Coast trip for 13 days, either. In the long run, I guess we're doing something that's certainly worthwhile for the league."

Sloan closed practice prematurely Thursday and booted his players out of the Westminster College gym, upset with what he felt was a lack of focus.

"Our concentration is not very good," he said. "I don't know if it was because we played four games in five days. Maybe I'd have been better off giving them the day off. We can't have the luxury of having two or three guys show up. This is the kind of job you have to be mentally prepared for.

"We could say it's just the exhibition season and that's fine and accept that, but I just can't accept that. We didn't look like we wanted to play anybody today."

This shouldn't be taken as a serious sign that the Jazz are on the skids. This sort of thing happens three or four times a season, and is Sloan's way of getting the attention of his players, especially the younger ones.

Anyway, expect the Jazz starters to go longer minutes in this weekend's games. All 16 players accompanied the team to Mexico City, but the game rotation probably will more closely resemble that of the regular season. In fact, the minutes distribution could give some indication of who might be cut before next Thursday's final-roster deadline.

GAME NOTES: Antoine Carr practiced Thursday, after missing Wednesday's exhibition game for personal reasons . . . Sloan said he doesn't understand players who don't work hard in a camp situation: "I'd hate to tell my family I had a chance to make a lot of money and didn't work at it."