Jazz swingman Matt Harpring, a team captain, pretty much put himself in the shoes of his troubled teammates, and he and several other Jazzmen had some empathy for the two rookies who got themselves into a scrape early Sunday morning in Park City.

"Sometimes you go to bars, and it might not be your fault," Harpring said. "Someone tries to push up on you, or do something, just because you're in the NBA."

It is a common occurrence, said Harpring, who added it happens to him.

"Sure, it happens all the time," he said. "They're trying to get their name in the paper, and it's a way for a player to get sued, so I tend to try to walk away."

In this instance, Whaley and Williams gave Park City police aliases rather than their own names — they were each charged with a Class C misdemeanor on Wednesday — and Whaley lied to team officials, teammates, the media and the public about how he sustained a six-stitch cut in his hand.

"He shouldn't have done that," Harpring said. "Lying is never good. Especially, I think, in this case telling the truth would have been his best alibi: 'Hey, I got in a scuffle, someone did something to me.' "

Jazz guard Devin Brown was of the same opinion.

"Yeah, my only thoughts about that — when we're able have days off, you have to be careful the places you go, whether it's restaurants or bars or anything," he said. "You just have to really watch out for yourselves."

The incident comes at a time when the Jazz are struggling with injuries and illness, yet players didn't seem terribly upset the team is shorthanded now — or that it may be harder for anyone to believe anything Whaley says in the future.

"It's tough," point guard Milt Palacio said, "but he (Whaley) is young, and I know he's been through a lot, so I don't condemn him.

"I just tell him, 'Just come out with what happened, and let's go from there.' — I just hope it gets resolved, because he doesn't need this."

Brown said he didn't feel betrayed by a teammate's lie.

"In as sense that's my business," he said, "but really it's not."

OSTERTAG OUT: One day after flying to Dallas for a second medical opinion on his sore right knee, usual Jazz starting Greg Ostertag did not play Wednesday night.

Ostertag exited the Jazz's two previous games early due to pain in the joint, but an MRI taken Monday proved negative.

The second opinion apparently revealed nothing contrary, and Ostertag's availability for future games apparently is dependent on how much pain he is able to endure.

Joining Ostertag on the Jazz's inactive list were Whaley, who has missed two games now because of his hand injury, and Carlos Boozer.

Boozer was at the Delta Center on Wednesday — contrary to a suggestion from the Jazz on Tuesday that he would return home to Los Angeles to resume rehab on the improving hamstring there.

Also not dressing Wednesday was usual starting shooting guard Gordan Giricek, who has missed three straight games due to Achilles tendinitis.

TRADE TALK: Today is the first day most NBA players who signed as free agents this past offseason can be traded.

The Jazz, though, are not thought to be close to be making any deals.

One ex-Jazz player mentioned prominently as potential trade bait is forward Scott Padgett, who plays sparingly for New Jersey since signing with the Nets.


E-MAIL: lham@desnews.com