Jerry Sloan probably knows exactly how the Utah Jazz roster will look when the regular season opens Friday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
But as of now, the Jazz coach isn't saying who the 12th man will be.The Jazz, who host Danny Ainge's Phoenix Suns tonight at 7 p.m. in the final preseason game, need to trim from 14 players to 12 by Thursday. Rookie guards Nate Erdmann and Troy Hudson and NBA journeyman center Greg Dreiling are battling for one spot - assuming no Jazz player other than John Stockton is placed on the injured reserve list before Thursday.
Erdmann, Hudson and Dreiling "have worked really hard," said Sloan. "We like them. In my opinion, from what they've done with us, all these guys deserve to be on the team. Obviously we can't accommodate that, but that's just part of the business."
Only 12 players - including Erdmann, Hudson and Dreiling - dressed for Utah's win Saturday night over the Trail Blazers in Portland. Reserve forwards Chris Morris (sore hamstring) and Antoine Carr (sore knee) sat out. Morris, after playing in the exhibition opener, has missed six straight games. But he practiced with the team Friday and could be ready to go by the start of the regular season.
While Sloan has been impressed with the hard work of the trio vying for a roster spot, the fact is none of them have done much in their limited minutes in the exhibition season.
Dreiling, a 7-foot-1, 10-year NBA veteran with three different teams, may be the favorite to stick. He played in six of the eight Jazz preseason games for a grand total of 45 minutes, and he hasn't made a single field goal in seven tries. He's 2-for-4 from the free-throw line, giving him a .3 scoring average. He grabbed nine rebounds.
Erdmann, Utah's second-round pick, has played sparingly in five preseason games, averaging 1.4 points on 23-percent shooting from the field. Hudson has seen action in four games, averaging 2.5 points on 29-percent shooting.
Of course, whoever makes the team for opening day will be the most likely to get cut when Stockton returns from his knee surgery in two to three months.
JAZZ NOTES: Utah, at 4-3 in the exhibition season, is assured of at least equaling last season's record. The Jazz may have won 64 regular season games and earned a first-ever trip to the NBA Finals, but they were just 4-4 in the preseason a year ago . . . The Suns feature former Jazzman Tom Chambers, who is trying to make an NBA comeback. Chambers, of course, played for the University of Utah in many memorable battles against current coach Ainge, then with BYU, in the late 70s and early 80s.