Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Return to Utah shocks Ostertag

Now Jazz fans will have somebody to blame again, jokes 7-footer, who played for Kings one year


Greg Ostertag was vacationing with his family Friday, when he received news that he had been traded.

"We'd been out on the lake," Ostertag said. "When we got back to the room, my wife started checking the messages and she said, 'Come here and sit down.' I said, 'What?' She said, 'Sit down.' I said, 'Come on, what?' And she said, 'You've been traded back to Utah.' I was like, 'Get out of here.'''


After one unhappy year in Sacramento, Ostertag is back with Utah, where he played his first nine professional seasons.

"I'm pretty excited," he said Sunday. "It's funny, in a way. I went away and now they want me back. But that makes you feel good, I guess."

Ostertag's return to Utah resulted from a three-team trade involving Utah, Sacramento and Memphis. The deal germinated from the Grizzlies' determination to get rid of baggage-toting veteran Bonzi Wells and his $8 million contract.

Memphis sent Wells to Sacramento for Bobby Jackson and Ostertag. The Jazz acquired Ostertag by sending second-year guard Kirk Snyder, injury-plagued center Curtis Borchardt and point guard Raul Lopez to the Grizzlies.

The trade will become official when a new collective bargaining agreement is finalized, perhaps Thursday. Ostertag is a former first-round pick out of Kansas University who is sixth on Utah's all-time list for games played (640). Two seasons ago, he averaged 6.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. But last summer, Ostertag signed a free-agent contract with Sacramento.

Ostertag broke his hand on the first day of training camp and, by his own admission, "never got the ball rolling. . . . The whole thing got fouled up. I got so far behind. I never learned the offense like I should have. I was always playing catch-up. I'm not blaming anybody but me. But that's what happened."

Ostertag played in only 56 games with the Kings. He averaged 1.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in 9.9 minutes. After the season, he exercised a $4.4 million option on his contract with Sacramento.

In Utah, Ostertag expects to play his traditional role. "I don't think it will be much different," he said. "For nine years, they wanted me to clog up the middle and rebound. I just want be be more consistent."

Ostertag never expected a return to Utah. He sold his house in February and says, "When I talked to Jerry (Sloan, coach), I told him, 'I wish you would have let me know about this a little sooner.'''

Ostertag knows that many perceive this trade as bad one for the Jazz.

"It's the same old stuff," Ostertag said. "People always need to blame somebody and, now that I'm back, I'm the perfect candidate."

Just like the old days in Utah?

"They probably didn't know who to blame last year, did they?" he said, laughing.

In the final year of his contract, the 32-year-old Ostertag knows a productive return to Utah will mean extending his career - perhaps with a long-term, big-money deal in his pocket.

"It's important for me to come out and have a good year so I can get another contract," he said. "At the same time, I don't want people to think I'm just playing for that."


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