INDIANAPOLIS — The Jazz may have to get creative if they really have interest in Denver Nuggets guard Tariq Abdul-Wahad, as has been reported widely in both Denver and Salt Lake City, as a possible replacement for retiring shooting guard Jeff Hornacek.

According to the Denver Post on Sunday, Abdul-Wahad fully intends to test the free-agent market and will be seeking $3 million to $5 million.

Since salary-cap restrictions prevent the Jazz from offering Abdul-Wahad any more than $2.25 million for next season, a sign-and-trade may be the only way Utah can attract him. In other words, Denver would have to sign Abdul-Wahad to the deal he is seeking, then send him to the Jazz for a player, or package of players, with similar salary value.

If the Nuggets even want to do a sign-and-trade with Abdul-Wahad, however, they are more likely to deal with the Los Angeles Clippers in an effort to land free-agent guard Derek Anderson.

The Jazz's best bet might be to offer a package that includes center Greg Ostertag, since the Nuggets, according to the Post, are on the lookout for veteran help at center to aid big men Antonio McDyess and Raef LaFrentz.

Ostertag did not play in the Jazz's final two playoff games and seems to have ended the season in the doghouse of coach Jerry Sloan.

Another possible component to the package may be Jazz reserve point guard Jacque Vaughn, a free agent in whom the Nuggets are said to have interest. Vaughn could go as part of a sign-and-trade deal in which the Jazz first sign him to a new contract, then trade him.

VAN HORN TO BOSTON?: Trade talk is starting to swirl around New Jersey Nets big man Keith Van Horn, the ex-University of Utah standout.

Ever since former NBA Vice President/disciplinarian Rod Thorn was recently named general manager of the Nets, Van Horn's name has been popping up in more and more rumors.

According to the Boston Globe on Sunday, Boston coach Rick Pitino has always liked Van Horn, and the Celtics and Nets have discussed a possible swap that would send Van Horn to Boston for Antoine Walker. Others would have to be involved in the deal to meet NBA salary-cap requirements.

Reports in Seattle have also mentioned Van Horn as a potential target should the Sonics try to trade Vin Baker.

SNOW WINS: Former Jazz star Mark Eaton served on a panel that selected divisional winners for the Joe Dumars Trophy, which was won Sunday by Philadelphia guard Eric Snow.

The award, which honors a current player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, comes with a $25,000 cash donation that Snow divided equally between the middle school he attended in Canton, Ohio, and Philadelphia's Simon Grantz High School, the alma mater of Aaron McKie, his 76ers teammate.

The 76ers nominated Snow. He received 45 of 121 votes from an electorate that consisted of 34 national media members and three who regularly cover of each of 29 NBA clubs.

BIRD-DOGGED: After Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Pacers coach Larry Bird used some rather heavy-handed criticism to get Jalen Rose going. Bird dogged Rose, saying he didn't come to play.

It worked, as Rose responded with 30 points in Indiana's Game 2 loss.

All of the Pacers were Bird-dogged Sunday, when the Indiana coach suggested his club was being much too soft with Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal.

"One of our problems is when we do get at Shaq and get an opportunity to go to the basket," Bird said in pregame comments prior to Game 3, "they (Pacer players) try to shoot over him instead of taking up the run, make contact and try to get the foul. We spend too much time trying to loft it up over him. . . . But, you know, he's big and he's powerful. Maybe these guys are a little timid."

Bird's rip job may have worked, as the Pacers won Game 3.

DOWNGRADED: So O'Neal's foul of Travis Best wasn't quite so flagrant after all.

A disputed fourth-quarter foul call on the Los Angeles center in Friday's Game 2 was initially called flagrant by game referees, but after a videotape review by Stu Jackson, the league's new basketball operations vice president, the NBA on Sunday announced it had been downgraded to a simple personal foul on O'Neal.

League policy allows the NBA to review and reclassify a flagrant foul, or classify as flagrant a foul not called as such during a game. In this instance, they rescinded the flagrant at the behest of the Lakers. "I asked (general manager) Mitch Kupchak . . . to call," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Sunday.

The decision is important because flagrant foul status begins anew in the playoffs, meaning a player is automatically suspended for one game after he is assessed a third flagrant foul in the postseason.

MISC.: The Lakers never led in Sunday's Game 3. It was the fourth game during this year's playoffs that the Pacers have never trailed.


E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com