With the NBA's Feb. 21 in-season deadline for dealing fast-approaching, the league is abuzz with trade talk — real and imagined — including one fairly fresh rumor involving the Jazz.

According to a one-line note from NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence in Sunday's New York Daily News, "Looking for a big man who can rebound and guard — something its own (starting center) Mehmet Okur is not always inclined to do — Utah has targeted Indiana's Jeff Foster for a potential deal."

The Jazz indeed have had interest in Foster for some time, but there is no current reason whatsoever to believe a deal to pry the 6-foot-11 center from the Pacers could be put together this month.

Foster makes $5.5 million this season and has another $5.5 million for next season remaining on his contract. The nine-season veteran has averaged 6.9 rebounds per game and has spent his entire NBA career in Indiana.

Asked Sunday about the rumor, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor declined to discuss it. "I would have no comment on trades, as per usual," he said by phone.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was asked about potential deals involving Utah — though not specifically anything about Foster — just last Friday. He suggested then that nothing is in the works and that he didn't anticipate any major deals being made by the club in February.

But Sloan did leave open the possibility, as O'Connor — who has long sought a lane-clogging center — typically does as well.

"If there's somebody we think that could make our team better, then we have to do that," Sloan said.

"That's a part of our job, every day," he added. "And if something comes up, we always discuss it. We either say yes or no and go a different way."

GASOL DEFENSE: Many players, coaches and executives from around the NBA's Western Conference — including some from the Jazz — expressed dismay last Friday over how Memphis' decision to trade franchise icon Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers may aid an in-conference foe.

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, however, doesn't care.

"If the Lakers win a championship as a result of getting Gasol I'll be happy for him," Wallace told the New York Post.

"I'm from the school of not caring how the Lakers made out," Wallace added. "I care about how we made out."

The Grizzlies landed center Kwame Brown and his expiring contract, guard Javaris Crittendon (who'll battle with Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley for minutes at the point, with one perhaps eventually getting dealt), the contract of retired guard Aaron McKie, rights to Gasol's big-man brother Marc Gasol (current MVP of the Spanish League and an NBA prospect), two future first-round draft picks and a boatload of financial flexibility that will enable them to pursue free agents in the coming offseason.

KIRILENKO ON GASOL: Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko weighed in on Memphis' move of Pau Gasol, a friend via international play: "He's really competitive. As much as I know him, he continues to play for the win, and in Memphis it was kind of tough, because they've not been playing good. ... So, I'm happy for him."

MORE TRADE TALK: Citing an unidentified league source in a Cleveland-based trade-talk story, the Akron Beacon Journal reported Sunday that Cavaliers basketball boss Danny Ferry "also has shown interest in 76ers shooting guard Gordan Giricek," the ex-Jazz swingman traded in late December to Philadelphia along with a future first-round draft pick for swingman Kyle Korver.

DOWN ON THE FARM: He scored 53 points in one NBA Development League game early last week, then shot 5-for-20 from the field with nine turnovers the next.

No wonder Sloan is looking for more from 2007 first-round rookie Morris Almond, currently assigned to the D-League's Utah Flash.

"If you just have one thing that you're working at, that's OK to a point," Sloan said. "But you have to develop the whole thing, and that's what (Almond) has to do to make himself better."

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Meanwhile, free agent forward Britton Johnson — the University of Utah product who played briefly in the NBA for Orlando and Indiana — left the Flash last week to join a team in Turkey.

HART STATUS: Jazz backup point guard Jason Hart (bulging disc; lower-back inflammation) has missed five straight games. His status for tonight's game against New Orleans is doubtful.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com