Greg Ostertag is expected to carry a heavy load this season, a burden which Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan says his starting center isn't ready to bear.

"He looked way out of shape," Sloan said after Tuesday's practice at Westminster College. "He's not even close. His conditioning is so far out it's like he's starting training camp all over. He had a tough time getting up and down the floor."Ostertag wasn't much of a factor in a scrimmage Tuesday; he reacted slowly and several times was out of position on defense.

The problem is, the season starts Friday, and in the first five games the Jazz's opponents include Western powers Seattle, Houston (twice) and San Antonio.

Asked if Ostertag will be ready to start in the season-opener Friday against the Sonics, Sloan said, "We'll have to wait and see how he'll hold up in practice. We have to push him as hard as we can."

The Jazz cut three players Tuesday morning, reducing their roster to 13, with one last cut to be made by 4 p.m. (MST) Thursday. Gone are forward Stephen Howard, guard Ruben Nembhard, and center Charles Claxton. Second-round draft pick Shandon Anderson remains the only non-contract player in camp.

"That's always the toughest part of our job," Sloan said of the cuts. "I feel bad for these guys, They played hard, they tried hard. A couple guys were right there very close. If they continue to work, they'll be in the league."

In light of what he deemed a less-than-spectacular practice Tuesday, Sloan then added, "When you see the way some of our guys came to practice today, I wish I'd cut some other people."

Sloan refused to be lured into conjecture about who might be cut Thursday.

"You guys can speculate on who we're going to keep all you want," he told a cluster of media types.

Guard Jamie Watson sprained his ankle during practice Tuesday when he went up for a driving shot and came down on Anderson. X-rays proved negative and Watson walked out of the hospital unaided, according to team sources.

The sprain was on the same ankle that Watson injured last season. That injury led to surgery and caused him to miss most of the season.

Watson's official status is day-to-day. If he were to open the season on the injured list, it would allow Anderson to stick around, at least for a while. Such an occurence wouldn't surprise Sloan.

"It seems like very year we come down to an injury deciding it for us," he said.

SHORT STUFF: Jazz veterans John Stockton and Karl Malone were included in a list of the 50 greatest players of all-time issued by the NBA on Tuesday. Sloan expressed no surprise. "I'd be disappointed if they weren't on it," he said.

Who were the Jazz's worst shooters in the preseason? Guard Brooks Thompson, who shoots the lights out in practice drills, made just 28.1 percent (nine of 32) from the field, 27.8 (five of 18) from the three-point line. Chris Morris was next worst, at 39.6 percent and 26.3 from the arc.

The best shooters? Malone and Antoine Carr both shot 57.1 percent from the field. The best three-point shooter was Bryon Russell, who made nine of 14 for 64.3 percent.

Other stats: Adam Keefe shot 56 percent (14 of 25) from the free-throw line; Greg Foster led the team in fouls, with 21; Malone made the most rurnovers, 25; and Carr blocked the most shots, seven.