The issue of surgery remains an open-ended one for Jazz big man Keon Clark, who is following a conservative treatment path after receiving a fifth medical opinion on the chipped bone spur in his right ankle.

After a cortisone shot proved ineffective, the Jazz had said Clark would have surgery to remove the loose particle, keeping him out six to eight weeks.

Now, though, the latest doctor's opinion recommends testing the ankle one more time to see if surgery can perhaps be avoided.

"We're going to work him out aggressively for two or three days, see how he does, and go from there," Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's senior vice president of basketball operations, said Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday morning, Clark said his ankle "feels fine when I'm walking around," but he suggested it's painful when tries to play or even push off on it.

Clark said he does still intend to undergo surgery, though he also left some wiggle room.

"There's never a 'definite' in life," he said. "Like, seriously. There ain't . . . A truck could come through here. A plane could fall on you. You never know."

But the probable plan, Clark added, is "to get it done, get it fixed and, basically, get it back to where I can play without having to sit out."

Clark, who is costing Utah about $5 million this season, apparently chipped off part of the spur, which he has had for about 10 years, during the Jazz's final game of the preseason. The summer trade acquisition missed Utah's first two games of the regular season, played in the next two, then went on the injured list for the past seven.

That's frustrating for someone who is unaccustomed to sitting after missing no more than two games in any of the past four seasons.

"Nobody likes watching," said Clark, who tonight will watch the Jazz play his team from a season ago, the Sacramento Kings. "I like earning my money."

NO JOSHING: As they said they would earlier this season, the Jazz on Tuesday worked out undrafted rookie free agent forward Josh Powell, who left North Carolina State early and was cut late in training camp by the Dallas Mavericks.

The Jazz have no room on their current roster for Powell, and they have no immediate plans to sign him.

But in case they do have space in the future, they wanted to work out Powell before he decides to play in either Europe (perhaps Russia) or the NBDL. So they did just that Monday and Tuesday — even if his presence may have been disconcerting to some players already employed in Utah.

"That's what we have to try to do," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We want to try to get better, try to get better athletes, better guys that can play and try to continue to get better."

If nothing else, Sloan hopes Powell's presence serves as a motivator to some: "It would on me," he said, "because I'm a competitive son of a gun."

And if anyone's offended, Sloan suggests, so be it.

"That's this business," he said. "If you don't understand that, don't get in it. Stay at home, get you a job 8-to-5, where you don't have to worry about getting fired or getting cut."

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NO SURPRISE: With his rebuilding team as young as it is, Sloan is not at all surprised that the Jazz are 5-0 at the Delta Center — and just 1-5 on the road.

"Everybody's more comfortable," he said, "playing at home."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com