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Who's the beneficiary of Stockton's absence?

Greg Dreiling will not be leading the Utah Jazz fast break. He will not suddenly become a key cog in the Jazz offense. You will not hear Hot Rod Hundley's raspy voice utter the phrase "Dreiling to Malone" dozens of times each game night.

"Stockton handles the ball a little better than I do," Dreiling understated with a smile.But Dreiling, a foot taller and some 90 pounds heavier, may fill Stockton's roster spot for the next three months.

Then again it could be Nate Erd-mann or Troy Hudson who make the team as a result of Stockton's knee surgery Monday.

Last week it was common knowledge that - barring an injury - Dreiling, Erdmann and Hudson were long shots to make the Jazz roster. But now that Stockton will be out for eight to 12 weeks, one of the three should benefit by having an NBA job - at least until Stockton returns, probably in January.

Hudson, a rookie out of Southern Illinois, is the only one of the three who plays Stockton's point guard position. Erdmann, Utah's second-round pick, is a shooting guard with potential. Dreiling will never be mistaken for Shaquille O'Neal - or even Greg Ostertag - but he's good enough in the low post to have 10 years of NBA experience under his belt.

Which one will make it?

The Jazz coaches aren't saying at this point, nor should they have to. The Jazz leave Thursday afternoon on a weeklong, four-game preseason road trip. Dreiling, Erdmann and Hudson will get opportunities on the trip, no doubt, to make their own case.

Dreiling was selected by Indiana 26th overall in the 1986 draft, one spot after Mark Price and one spot ahead of some guy named Dennis Rodman. He has played for the Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks (on two separate occasions, including last year). His best season was in 1990-91 when he averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds for the Pacers. His career scoring average in the NBA is 2.1 points, and he dishes out an assist about every two-and-a-half games.

In other words, Dreiling will never be a star for the Jazz. But he has something Jazz management has been attracted to for years - size. As Frank Layden was fond of saying, "You can't teach height." Ostertag is currently Utah's only 7-footer. Dreiling would give the Jazz a pair.

"I feel I'm a good fit with the Jazz," said Dreiling, who will turn 34 next month. "Their style of play fits my game, and they have a great group of high-caliber people here. I'm just going to give it all I've got the rest of the month to show them what I can do, and then the final decision will be up to them."

The Jazz have a tradition of finding gems late in the second round of the NBA draft - like Bryon Rus-sell and Shandon Anderson. Erdmann hopes to be added to that list.

"I'm just trying to play hard, practice and take advantage of my game time in the preseason," said Erdmann. "Hopefully they'll decide to keep me for a while."

Erdmann is athletic, and his work habits seem to be in line with the Jazz philosophy. His shot, which was a strong suit when he was averaging 20.5 points per game at Oklahoma last year, has been inconsistent for the Jazz, however.

"I'm still getting used to the longer 3-point line," he said.

Hudson, on the other hand, has looked comfortable shooting the NBA three. The 6-1 rookie is a bona fide scorer and an exciting young player. He is also sometimes out of control and is learning the point guard position on the job after playing the shooting guard spot in college.

Even with Stockton sitting out the last exhibition game in El Paso Sunday night, Hudson didn't have to take off his sweats. He didn't play at all, as Howard Eisley and first-round pick Jacque Vaughn split the point-guard duties. Still, the Jazz may choose to keep him around as a third point guard until Stockton returns.

JAZZ NOTES: Chris Morris sat out of practice again Thursday. He aggravated a hamstring injury late in Saturday night's exhibition game against the Charlotte Hornets and didn't make the trip to El Paso for Sunday's game against the Mavericks. He's not expected to make the trip to Indianapolis. . . . Rumors that the Jazz are trying to trade for another point guard appear to be unfounded. Jazz brass indicate Eisley and Vaughn will run the show until Stockton returns . . . . The Jazz will play three games in the next four days. They face the Pacers Friday night in Indianapolis, play the Pacers again Saturday in Evansville, Ind., (where Jazz coach Jerry Sloan went to college) and will then play Keith Van Horn's New Jersey Nets Monday in Cincinnati.


Additional Information

3 Players - but only one spot

Here's a thumbnail sketch of the three players trying to earn the final spot on the 12-man Utah Jazz roster:

Greg Dreiling

Age: 33, turns 34 in three weeks

Height/position: 7-1/center

Pluses: Height and experience. The Jazz have long had a love affair with big guys, plus he has played in the NBA for 10 years.

Minuses: Is past his prime and was never a star in the first place. Not very athletic.

Nate Erdmann

Age: 23, turns 24 next month

Height/position: 6-5/shooting guard.

Pluses: Young, energetic and athletic. Rumored to have a fine outside shooting touch, but has been off the mark more often than not in practice.

Minuses: Shandon Anderson, who is just as young and energetic and is stronger and more athletic, plays the same position.

Troy Hudson

Age: 21

Height/position: 6-1/point guard

Pluses: Has good quickness and shooting touch. A strong one-on-one player who would give Jazz a third point guard until Stockton's return.

Minuses: Was a scorer in college and is still learning the Jazz-style point guard position. Sometimes out of control.