Kragthorpe: Ostertag vs. Sloan: Nothing's changed

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This is not an advisory that nobody should believe what they read anymore, considering how that would affect my employment outlook.

Clearly, though, nothing about the Jazz seems to hold true for long.

The latest development was the suspension of center Greg Ostertag, following a postgame exchange Wednesday with coach Jerry Sloan.

Just like old times, in other words. Stuff like this happened every month or two during the last few years of Ostertag's first Jazz stint. Maybe the confrontation is not really a sign of a team in disarray, but rather reassuring in its own way, proof that some things are still reliable in a changing world.

But the relationship was advertised as being different this time around, right?

Sloan promised so in July when the Jazz reacquired Ostertag and the coach told inside stories of how the big guy was really a stabilizing presence in the locker room. Who knew?

Ostertag's sister promised so in September, during an impassioned interview in which she defended him and insisted he would create a much better impression in his return to the team. "Greg got a second chance to redeem himself," Amy Hall said. "I, in my heart, think he'll come back and take it by storm."

Ostertag said so last month, observing how he and Sloan had matured to the point where they understood each other. No controversy surrounding the two of them lately? "There's no reason," he said.

There is now. It was nice while it lasted, which seems to be the case for a lot of developing stories in Jazzland this season:

Milt Palacio, finisher. The veteran point guard was a fourth-quarter specialist, making all kinds of clutch plays. But wait: Palacio was soon back on the bench, hardly playing at all.

Carlos Boozer, almost healthy. The forward's hamstring-injury rehabilitation was progressing nicely. But wait: He suffered a setback, then another, then another.

Deron Williams, rookie of the year. The point guard was growing up quickly. But wait: At the moment, he's basically the third-string shooting guard.

There's more. Andrei Kirilenko was struggling, then brilliant. Mehmet Okur is consistently inconsistent. Devin Brown and Gordan Giricek are in and out of Sloan's doghouse, and confused about the reasons.

It's all symptomatic of a .500 basketball team, which is exactly what the Jazz (21-22) were before Wednesday, when they lost to Seattle and looked bad in the process. Remember, they were 11-16 and seemingly hopeless, then 19-17 and making room for a Northwest Division championship banner. Now? Back where they belong.

The Jazz's talent level dictates such fluctuation in performance, and Sloan's willingness to publicly criticize players magnifies their inconsistency.

The more cranky Sloan gets, the more problems seem to surface.

The latest flare-up had undoubtedly been brewing for a while, and Sloan was fed up with the Jazz's failing to follow one solid effort with another and threatening to undo the good they did earlier this month.

As much as I wanted to believe his sister's forecast that Ostertag would return to town and emerge as some new force on the court, he's really still the same player whose trade led Jazz management to stage a "town meeting" to reassure season-ticket holders that they knew what they were doing. He occasionally plays quite well, but mostly comes and goes. That's 'Tag.

And he's back to feuding with Sloan, which is certainly attributable to each man's personality. History suggests they will patch things up, then squabble again in, say, March. Like everything else with this team, their relationship is dependably fluid.

Kurt Kragthorpe can be reached at To write a letter about this or any sports topic, send an e-mail to