It's happened, again.

The Jazz on Friday reprimanded starting center Greg Ostertag for "violation of team rules," making him sit out their Friday night Delta Center win over the Seattle SuperSonics.

The Jazz did not reveal specific details as to why Ostertag was punished for the third time in four seasons — though he was visibly upset when head coach Jerry Sloan substituted for him with about three minutes remaining in the opening quarter of a Wednesday night home win over Houston.

Ostertag tossed a towel into the stands after he was pulled in favor of rookie Curtis Borchardt, though he did play 20 more minutes later in the Houston game.

Sloan did not mention Ostertag by name during his postgame comments Wednesday, but he did say this: "Sometimes guys don't like the substitution pattern that I use — because if you can't do what we want you to do, I'll play somebody else."

The two also are believed to have had a heated debate after the Wednesday game, though the discipline was not announced until two days later.

Additionally, it is thought Sloan's frustration with Ostertag may be somewhat cumulative in nature, as it evidently is not the first time this season the two have not seen eye-to-eye regarding "substitution patterns."

Ostertag is, however, expected to participate when the Jazz close a six-game homestand Monday night vs. New Jersey.

"That's just the way life is, and you go on about your business," Sloan said. "That's all behind us, and Greg will play the next time we play."

Ostertag left the Delta Center without comment, but Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor said, "Both parties sat down and addressed it, and we move on."

Yet this is hardly the first reprimand for Ostertag, who has played all of his nine NBA seasons under Sloan in Utah.

On Feb. 12, 2002, he did not play against Indiana because of an incident one game earlier in which he brushed Sloan while angrily exiting a game at Memphis. On Jan. 15, 2001, Ostertag did play against Houston after he had skipped a prior practice and demanded a trade due to issues with Jazz coaches. He made it through all of last season without being suspended.

This rebuke, like the last two, does not include any fine or dock in pay for Ostertag, whose $8,666,666 annual salary breaks down to just more than $96,000 per game over 82 regular-season and eight preseason games.

"You've got to have reasons for the suspension without pay, and they've got to be of a nature that's spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement (between the NBA and its players association)," O'Connor said. "You can't just do something arbitrarily."

It is for that reason that after originally announcing Friday morning that Ostertag had been suspended, the Jazz later massaged the language used to not include the word "suspension" — since suspending someone without withholding their pay is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement.

Instead, they simply labeled him as "did not play/coach's decision."

Rather than have Ostertag watch the game in street clothes, the Jazz also had him dress in uniform and sit on the team bench; doing otherwise also would have been a collective-bargaining violation.

In the recent past — including the cases of Ostertag, ex-Jazz guard John Starks and ex-Jazz big man John Amaechi — Sloan has simply suspended players with pay and had them watch in street clothes. That is in part because of the fallout of a case in which ex-Jazz player Chris Morris was suspended without pay, only to have his salary returned (with interest) after he took the case to arbitration.

But, in light of an incident earlier this week in Cleveland, that practice changed Friday.

There, the Cavaliers — adhering to collective-bargaining rules made known to them by the NBA — were careful to say reprimanded Cavs Ricky Davis and Michael "Yogi" Stewart had not been suspended, even though they were not permitted to play in a Wednesday night game at New Orleans.

Starting in place of Ostertag on Friday was backup big man Jarron Collins, whose playing time had been steadily decreasing in recent games.

Wednesday night against Houston, in fact, Collins did not play for the first time this season. Prior to that, he logged 26 minutes at Minnesota on Nov. 14, 22 at Milwaukee the next night, 10 against Orlando on Nov. 17, and just seven in games Nov. 19 vs. Sacramento and Nov. 21 vs. Milwaukee.

Collins responded Friday, scoring all eight of his points in the opening half. Also seeing playing time Friday was big man Ben Handlogten, who had not played in any of the Jazz's last six games. He had four rebounds in eight minutes.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com