Mel Turpin still belongs to the Utah Jazz, three days after announcing he was being traded to Washington.

The Bullets did consider signing him as a free agent, but an agent for Turpin broke off talks with Washington Thursday. David Falk of ProServ informed Jazz officials that Turpin would not exercise the free-agent option available to him in his complex contract. Turpin had until Thursday to make that decision; he could still have signed after that, but Falk never came close enough to salary figures with the Bullets to make that idea worthwhile.Turpin's signing with Washington would actually have brought the Jazz compensation from Cleveland, which sent Turpin to them last October. The Jazz will now resume efforts to trade the 6-foot-11 reserve center, a task made easier by their contract option to greatly reduce Turpin's salary to about $125,000 for next season.

Is Turpin tradeable? "Absolutely, because centers are hard to come by, and he's shown potential," said Scott Layden, the Jazz's director of player personnel. "We'll work at calling other teams and seeing which teams have interest."

Earlier this week, Turpin had told a newspaper near his offseason home in central Illinois that he was being traded - meaning he planned to go to Washington to take a physical exam and sign a contract. Turpin did take the trip and the physical, but the Bullets never offered him a contract, according to William Strickland, another ProServ agent. "It was all very premature," he told the Washington Times.

Washington seemed a logical place for Turpin after the Bullets decided not to re-sign Moses Malone and traded Manute Bol to Golden State for Dave Feitl. They brought 10 centers to a rookie-free agent camp this month. The next possibility is expansion teams Charlotte and Miami, whose rosters are stocked mostly with guards - Charlotte has even interviewed former Jazzman Darryl Dawkins in a search for centers.