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Jazz players turn media-friendly

After the Jazz finished blowing an 18-point lead and falling 94-90 to Golden State on Friday at the Delta Center, locker-room doors opened quite quickly.

Normally, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan addresses media members first — and then the locker room opens, often with a majority of players nowhere to be seen because they instead are passing time in a private training-room area off-limits to reporters.

So when nearly every player on the Jazz's active roster was seen sitting in front of their stall and awaiting questioning before Sloan ever spoke, natural presumption was that due to the devastating loss they had been ordered by the coach to answer for themselves.

That, however, evidently was not the case.

Rather, Jazz players said they had earlier been chastised about not making themselves available in a timely fashion — and that they would have been there waiting Friday win or lose.

"We (opened it up)," said rookie point guard Deron Williams, who acknowledges frequently spending up to an hour icing down and receiving other medial treatment after games, "because y'all keep complaining about us not being in here.

"It had nothing to do with this game."

Added forward Matt Harpring, a Jazz captain: "Jerry was mad that we were getting treatment and stuff, and that you guys were waiting. So we said, 'Hey, let them in right away.' "

Sloan suggested he will continue to insist players meet with the media before seeking lengthy treatment for ordinary bumps, bruises, pains, sprains and strains.

EARLY ALL-STAR CONSIDERATIONS: He had a game-high 15 rebounds but just eight points Friday.

Still, if Mehmet Okur continues to play like he has throughout November — averaging 18.9 points and 8.9 rebounds in 14 games — teammate Andrei Kirilenko thinks the big man from Turkey deserves to play in his first NBA All-Star Game.

But, Kirilenko adds, it will take more than just nice stats for it to happen. It also might require, he suggests, the Jazz having an impressive record through January.

"I think for all-star it's very important to bring your team to (victories)," said Kirilenko, an all-star two seasons ago. "If you're playing like an all-star but your team is down low, I don't think it will work."

With Phoenix's injured Amare Stoudemire out long-term, and San Antonio's Tim Duncan a power forward at heart, Okur's top early competition at center in the Western Conference include Denver's Marcus Camby (16.8 points, 13.9 rebounds in 13 games) and Houston's Yao Ming (18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds in his first 12 games).

Okur actually has been starting at power forward, but that's only because Carlos Boozer has been out all season with a strained hamstring. Okur is listed at center on the All-Star ballot.

The 2006 All-Star Game will be played Feb. 19 in Houston.

OOPS: The Jazz were supposed to practice Saturday, but upon arrival at the Zions Bank Basketball Center the practice facility had no heat.

Players did lift weights, but — rather than run drills and scrimmage in a cold and drafty gym — practice was put off while the heater was repaired. Instead, they will work out this morning, which was to have been an off day.

BOARD GAME: Jazz center Greg Ostertag pulled down six rebounds vs. the Warriors, including the 4,000th of his NBA career.

Because 167 of those boards came during his lone year in Sacramento last season, however, Ostertag still does not rank among the three players who had 4,000 rebounds while with the Jazz.

Those three? Karl Malone, Mark Eaton and, go figure, John Stockton.

Center Rich Kelley finished his seven-season, two-stint Jazz career from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s 28 boards shy of 4,000.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com