On the same day Jerry Sloan took time to break down film from a weekend horror flick, he addressed a rather rapt audience.

One simple question was posed.

Honest answers were sought.

This, however, was no Sundance Q&A. Rather, the director was the one with the probing inquiry.

"I asked them," the Jazz coach said of his hapless crew, 15-30 overall and losers of four of their past five games after falling 99-82 Saturday to the New Jersey Nets, "if any of them want to be traded."

Sloan, whose club tries to reverse its woeful ways tonight against the expansion Charlotte Bobcats, was dead serious.

"If they did," he said after the Jazz watched videotape from Saturday's debacle, "we'd try to get them out of here."

No one, though, stepped forward. No one raised a hand. No one offered any discernible indication Sloan should put away his popcorn and call the movers.

"Nobody say anything," Jazz center Mehmet Okur said. "That means nobody wants a trade; everybody wants to stay here and play."

"I think everybody wants to be here," power forward Carlos Boozer added. "Guys, we're committed to each other. We have a good camaraderie . . . We want to win, and we want to get out of this funk. Just as bad as he (Sloan) does, we all do, too."

Yet 45 games into the 2004-05 NBA season for the Jazz, and with the league's Feb. 24 trading deadline now just more than three weeks away, this is what it has come to: asking who wishes they could run and hide.

Surely, one or more must. Or so senses Sloan. Understandably, too, based on the Jazz's play of late.

"Sometimes it looks like that on the court, I think," co-captain Matt Harpring said. "And maybe there's some rumors going around about people saying they want to be out of here. I don't know.

"I mean, I know that I want to be here. I'm always worried about the other side — what they're saying about me. I mean, I'm the one that wants to be here. And it is frustrating to play with a player if he doesn't want to be here. I mean . . . 'You're killing the rest of the guys that want to be here.' "

Identifying the assassin, though, seemingly amounts to a feature-length mystery for most.

"I don't know who it is he's talking about, but . . . if there is someone or a couple players that feel like they can be better-suited elsewhere, then fine," Harpring said. "But they don't know what kind of destruction (that does to) a team."

"Nobody stepped up and said anything, so I don't know. But . . . I think Jerry (Sloan) has a right to know," added Raja Bell, the Jazz's other co-captain. "If people's hearts aren't in it, then he shouldn't have to play them. He shouldn't have to worry about guys not wanting to be here. If they don't want to be here, then we have to get somebody who (does)."

Bell, though, isn't sure himself if there are those who truly want out.

"I'm hoping that's not the case," he said. "That doesn't say a lot about somebody's character — if they want to bail on us because we're losing."

Sloan, though, seems convinced otherwise.

Because on one hand he sees a team making correctable mistakes.

But on the other he see one with at least some players unwilling to do what it takes to turn wrong into right, beginning with the basics of paying attention to and trusting in their coaches.

That, he suggests, is a clear cue they'd much rather be elsewhere.

"First of all," Sloan said, "they have to get a clear idea of what they want to do. If they don't like it here . . . we can't make them. If there's something going on here that we have no control over, then we'll try to change."

Otherwise . . .

"They have to decide who they're going to listen to," Sloan said. "Their agent? Mom and dads? Or wives? Or, whatever. They have to decide who's going to coach them. That's what it boils down to."

That, or trading them to the most trite of Hollywood locales.

Comment on this story "The grass," Sloan said, "is always greener on the other side."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com