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Sloan hopes Jazz can put trade hoopla behind them

Jerry Sloan realizes Greg Foster and Chris Morris are working through a tough situation. The Jazz coach, who met with the players individually before practice Friday at Westminster College, respects the professional approach each has taken in coming back to the team that traded them away earlier in the week. Foster and Morris were sent to Orlando for Rony Seikaly before the deal unraveled.

"I think everything went fine," Sloan said. "We're going about our business."And thanks to the schedule-maker, the defending Western Conference champions have little choice in the matter. Utah (36-15) visits San Antonio (36-16) tonight in a battle for the Midwest Division lead. The teams have split two previous meetings this season.

"I think the best thing we can do if we're going to salvage the things that are important to us is to go out and play basketball," Sloan said. ". . . The game should be the most important thing we have to talk about."

Not a problem, said Karl Malone. The reigning NBA Player of the Week is approaching the San Antonio game like he does any other contest.

"We're professionals. If you listen to everything that's said or done you can let things get out of hand, or you can handle it like a professional and go out and win ballgames," Malone said. "That's our attitude, and we're not going to get caught up with what people are saying on the outside looking in."

And inside the Payne Gymnasium, the Jazz proved it with a spirited workout that Adam Keefe called one of the team's better practices. Afterward, Sloan acknowledged they've played some pretty good basketball of late. Utah takes a six-game winning streak into the Alamodome, where San Antonio may throw a frontline of three 7-footers - David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Will Perdue - at the Jazz.

Robinson, however, may not play. The Admiral has missed two games with a sore right knee and is listed as questionable for Saturday. He ranks among the top 10 in four league statistical categories.

"We know they're a good team. They've won without Robinson in the lineup, and I don't know if he'll be in the lineup (against us)," Sloan said. "So hopefully we can keep everybody on the same page and get them back to playing well."

Sloan plans to insert Foster into the starting lineup in place of William Cunningham. The rookie, who is playing under a 10-day contract, started both games at center while Foster was in trade limbo. Utah's regular starter, Greg Ostertag, is out with an injury.

Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised on KJZZ, Ch. 14.



Midwest race

... W L Pct GB

Utah 36 15 .706 -

San Antonio 36 16 .692 1/2

Minnesota 28 23 .549 8

Houston 27 25 .519 9 1/2

Vancouver 14 38 .269 22 1/2

Dallas 10 43 .189 27

Denver 5 47 .096 31 1/2