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Shorthanded Jazz still manage to drub Sonics

Boozer, Borchardt, Bell join Lopez in sitting out while hurt

SPOKANE, Wash. — Sunday was to have offered the Jazz their first look at a future full of hope and promise.

Instead, it was a glass half-empty kind of night.

Utah did beat Seattle 100-84 in its preseason opener at Spokane Arena here — but the Jazz had to do it without four injured under-contract regulars.

Everyone knew backup point guard Raul Lopez would not play. He did not even travel, instead staying behind in Salt Lake to continue rehabbing the weak muscles surrounding his twice surgically rebuilt right knee.

The other absences, however, were rather unexpected — and somewhat alarming.

Power forward Carlos Boozer, who was to have debuted for the Jazz after signing a six-year, $68 million contract in the offseason, did not play because of a lower-back strain that cropped up Sunday.

Shooting guard Raja Bell also was a no-go, due to a previously undisclosed left-side groin strain.

And reserve center Curtis Borchardt also sat this one out, the result of soreness — get this — in his oft-injured right foot.

The Boozer holdback, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, was not a mere preseason precaution.

"If he's injured," Sloan said, "I wouldn't play him — even if it were the regular season."

Boozer is listed as being out day-to-day.

Bell is expected to play when Utah plays host to New York in its preseason home opener on Tuesday night at the Delta Center, a Jazz spokeswoman said.

As for Borchardt, X-rays on his foot — which is already held together by surgical pins because of multiple stress fractures in seasons past — were negative, Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor said.

Borchardt is expected to return as soon as the foot allows, and how he performs when he does will go a long way toward helping the Jazz decide if they will pick up the 2005-06 season option on his rookie contract.

To top off Utah's health woes, guard Jason Miskiri — a free-agent hopeful battling Keith McLeod for the No. 3 point position — exited early with a painful hip strain and did not return.

Boozer and Bell might have started Sunday, but instead Sloan opened with a lineup of Carlos Arroyo at the point, Gordan Giricek at shooting guard, Andrei Kirilenko at small forward, Jarron Collins at power forward and Mehmet Okur at center.

Matt Harpring led the Jazz with 18 points off the bench, while Okur, Kirilenko and rookie Kris Humphries added 14 apiece.

Particular impressive was the play of the Jazz's two 2004 first-round draft choices, Humphries and Kirk Snyder, who had 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field.

"They had some moments where things went pretty well with them, but they have a lot of things they have to learn," said Sloan, whose club led 53-46 at the break and cruised in the second half after a 31-18 third quarter. "But at least they're willing to learn."

NOTES: Seattle was without both Rashard Lewis (plantar faciatis) and Flip Murray (strained quadricep) . . . All 13 healthy available players for the Jazz got into the game . . . Because their would-be preseason opener in Russia was canceled due to security concerns, Utah was the last team in the NBA to play an exhibition game this season . . . Sunday opened a stretch of seven preseason games in six cities over 12 nights for the Jazz — four games this week, and three next . . . Peter Vecsey, writing in Sunday's New York Post about contract extension negotiations between Kirilenko and the Jazz: "This just in: Boozer's wife swears Kirilenko will never leave the Jazz." . . . Columnist Charley Walters, in Sunday's St. Paul Pioneer Press: "The (Minnesota) Timberwolves haven't given up on trying to sign free agent Karl Malone. Malone . . . has assured the 'Wolves they'll receive serious consideration if he decides to return to the court for the regular season." The ex-Jazz star, however, also has reportedly said the Los Angeles Lakers are the only team for which he'll play should he decide to return.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com