DENVER — The likelihood of knee surgery for Matt Harpring seems higher than ever after the Jazz captain and starting small forward paid a Friday visit to renowned orthopedist Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo.

Harpring said he received "some good advice" from Steadman, the fifth doctor to provide an opinion on the cartilage problem he has beneath the kneecap on his right knee.

"I'm gonna sleep on it," Harpring, the Jazz's leading scorer with an average of 16.2 points per game said before Utah's Friday-night loss to the Denver Nuggets. "I'm gonna sleep on it, to see if I'm doing the right thing here."

Harpring would be out at least six weeks and perhaps up to six months should he indeed decide to go through with the surgery.

Rest has not alleviated the pain in the knee, a discouraged Harpring said.

A final decision is expected to be made either today or Sunday, after Harpring, Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor, and trainer Gary Briggs meet to decide a course of action.

RUFFIN STARTS: Forward Michael Ruffin, a Denver native, played his first game of the season for the Jazz on Saturday.

But that's not all.

Ruffin, out all season due to a strained abdominal muscle, actually started.

He got the nod over rookie swingman Sasha Pavlovic, primarily because the Jazz wanted him to play while he was still loose, as soon as possible after pregame warmups.

Ruffin wound up playing mostly power forward, with usual starting power forward Andrei Kirilenko essentially shifting to Harpring's and Pavlovic's small-forward spot.

"I thought he played very well," Jazz assistant coach Phil Johnson said after Ruffin's one-point, two-rebound, 11-minute showing. "He obviously is a good defender, (but) we just have to limit his time — 10 minutes to start with here, see how he is, and then we'll move that up."

STRANDED: The Jazz were stranded Friday night in Denver because foggy conditions prevented their charter flight from landing at Salt Lake International Airport.

The decision to stay was made before the club even left the Pepsi Center, and rooms were still available at their downtown Denver hotel.

The team planned to take a 10 a.m. flight this morning — just nine hours before tipoff for tonight's game against Atlanta.

Still no new date, by the way, for the rescheduled game between Utah and Memphis, which was postponed last Wednesday night because the Grizzlies were stuck in snowy Portland.

MILLER TIME: If the Jazz had had their druthers, former University of Utah star point guard Andre Miller would be playing this season in Utah — not Denver, with whom he signed as a restricted free agent this past summer.

But Miller told the Rocky Mountain News that the Jazz never really stood a chance in their battle over him with the Nuggets.

"I just thought (Denver) was a better situation," he told the Denver newspaper. "Denver was the front-runner all along."

Miller finished with seven assists and 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field.

WHERE NOW: Guard Jermaine Boyette, the former Weber State who was the last cut of the Jazz in their most-recent training camp, signed recently with Prokom Trefl of the Polish League. Meanwhile, ex-Jazz guard Rusty LaRue signed recently with the NBDL's Asheville Altitude.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com