As one of three NBA veterans stationed at the end of the Jazz bench for the playoffs, center Mel Turpin is responding to insults from Coach Frank Layden, saying,

"I'm just fed up with it. I took it the whole year, and I'm starting to talk back."After a loss to the Lakers Sunday, Layden used colorful terms to describe Turpin as - mildly - useless. Layden has frequently criticized Turpin's physical condition and has used Turpin's weight as the reason for considerably reducing his playing time at the end of the season. Turpin has appeared in six of nine playoff games for a total of 29 minutes, falling behind Karl Malone and becoming the Jazz's No. 3 center.

"He (Layden) needs to look at his own body before he starts accusing somebody else's body," Turpin said before Tuesday's Game 5 against the Lakers, in which he and five other reserves did not play.

Said one Jazz player of Turpin, "Anybody with feelings would probably be hurt, if those things are said."

After Sunday's game, Malone said of unnamed teammates, "We get paid to play, not sit down there." Layden complained that he's playing with "half a deck" in the series because veteran reserves have lost interest and are not ready to play. "If he wants to start blaming people, look at himself and the (game video) tapes," said Turpin of Layden. "He's trying to find an excuse for his own (problems) and he's looking at me. I don't see anything I'm doing wrong in the minutes I'm getting."

Turpin already expects to take a major salary cut if the Jazz elect renegotiate with him and keep him next season, according to provisions of his complex contract.

The other veteran reserves question the charge that they're not ready to play, which has resulted in Layden's using four players for an average of more than 40 minutes a game in the Jazz-Lakers series.

"You have nothing to gain if you're not ready," said Kelly Tripucka. "That wouldn't make sense. You're out there representing yourself, as well as the team."

Said Rickey Green, "I can't believe someone could say the bench is not ready. There's no way you can be blamed if you're not getting consistent minutes."

- Kurt Kragthorpe