The list is now down to four players vying for two spots. After the Jazz's Sunday practice session, Coach Jerry Sloan cut Minnesota guard Melvin Newbern, bringing the preseason roster 14.
"We've got to get down to the numbers we're going to have during the season," said Sloan.With just 11 days remaining until the start of the NBA season, Sloan is spending less time giving everyone a good look and more time deciding who his team will be. Newbern probably had an idea his stock had gone down. He played poorly in the two exhibition games against Chicago and didn't see any action in the last two games.
The release of Newbern leaves Georgetown guard Mark Tillmon, BYU guard/forward Andy Toolson, Southern Cal forward Chris Munk and second-year guard Eric Johnson vying for the two spots on the roster. Center Alan Bannister underwent knee surgery and will probably be placed on injured reserve when the year begins.
The remaining cuts will come quickly. The Jazz play Philadelphia twice this week, then depart on Saturday for Toronto, where they will meet Detroit in an exhibition game. That will be followed by a game in Providence, R.I., against Boston.
Since the Jazz go directly from the game in Providence to Japan for the season opener, Sloan said he expects to have his 12-man roster decided before the team goes east on Saturday.
Cutting players is the hardest part of the job, said Sloan. "You're going to lose games and I understand that," said Sloan. "But the hard part of the business is cutting a kid when he wants to play basketball. That's what's hard to understand."
With Munk, Toolson, Tillmon and Johnson still in the running, it becomes a matter of what the Jazz are looking for. It's unlikely both Tillmon and Johnson will make the team, because the Jazz already have two point guards in John Stockton and Delaney Rudd. If one spot goes to Tillmon or Johnson, the final choice would come down to Toolson and Munk.
Sloan said what hurt Newbern was missing the rookie/free agent camp and summer league due to an injury, thus putting him behind. "I don't tell everyone this, but I think if he works at his game something could come along," said Sloan. "Maybe not right now. But he has some skills to be developed and if he's willing to work at it, he has a chance somewhere."
The Jazz, 0-4 in exhibition play, play at Las Vegas against Philadelphia Tuesday, then return to meet the Sixers at the Salt Palace on Wednesday.
Jazz notes: Guard Jeff Malone, who missed Saturday's game against Boston due to flu, was back and practicing with the team on Sunday.
Who's On: Delaney Rudd, Karl Malone, Jeff Malone, John Stockton, Thurl Bailey, Mark Eaton, Mike Brown, Darrell Griffith, Blue Edwards, Walter Palmer
Who's gone: Brett Vroman, Nate Johnston, Melvin Newbern
Who's hanging on: Andy Toolson, Chris Munk, Eric Johnson, Mark Tillmon