Utah Jazz: No matter what goes wrong, team tries to roll with punches

Published: Friday, April 23 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur injures his foot on a drive during the NBA playoffs.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Andrei Kirilenko re-injures his calf two days before a first-round meeting with the Denver Nuggets, and Mehmet Okur blows out his Achilles tendon just two quarters into Game 1 of the first-round series.

What could possibly be next?

It's a question the Jazz can ask themselves almost every day lately, especially come mid-April, early May and the onset of NBA postseason play.

This, after all, is a drama-deluged franchise that come playoff time recently seems more snakebit than a camper cohabiting with copperheads.

"It's been tough dealing with injuries and off-the-court stuff," point guard Deron Williams said.

"You know, these things happen. These things happen with every team," Williams added. "It just seems it happens more so with us the last couple years than other teams."

The Jazz's run of playoff madness actually started three years ago, when Utah's first playoff appearance post John Stockton and Karl Malone was marred early on by Kirilenko's meltdown in Houston.

The forward from Russia was so flustered by his diminished role at the time in the Jazz offense and a strained relationship with coach Jerry Sloan that he broke down one day during the first-round series, crying his eyes out as reporters awkwardly listened, cameras rolled and teammates wondered what in the world was going on.

Utah rebounded from a 0-2 deficit in that best-of-seven series to win 4-3 and ultimately advance to the Western Conference finals, only to have that matchup — against the eventual NBA-champion San Antonio Spurs — end with Williams blasting teammates for making early vacation plans.

In between those two series, the Jazz were burdened by much heavier obstacles.

Starting shooting guard Derek Fisher wasn't there for the start of Game 2 of the 2007 Western Conference semifinals, but he arrived in time to help Utah beat Golden State in overtime — then announced afterward that he and his wife had just flown in from New York, where his young daughter Tatum had undergone surgery for a rare form of childhood eye cancer.

"The Fish thing was crazy, because he was such a big part of our team," Jazz small forward C.J. Miles said. "But that's his family, and you know he has to be there for that.

"You love him for trying to get back for the game, trying to be there when he could, but it was tough, because it was made such a big deal and (some people) didn't know the whole story."

Unbeknownst to many, Jazz starting power forward Carlos Boozer and his wife CeCe were dealing around that same time with the reality that their young son Carmani was in a fight for his life with the devastating disease sickle cell anemia.

If all that wasn't enough to prepare the Jazz to face the travails of postseasons to come, perhaps nothing could.

"We've had some tough breaks come playoff time. We really have," Boozer said. "That year we had Fish (Fisher), we had a lot of stuff going on. He did, I did.

"We've had some tough things going on in our lives, but we've been able to overcome most of it. It would be nice to have a postseason without too many personal distractions, though, I'll tell you that. Or even injuries."

Tatum Fisher's life fortunately was saved, and now her father is back with defending NBA-champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Carmani Boozer thankfully was cured, too, his survival facilitated largely via transplant surgery made possible by the birth of twin brothers.

More roadblocks, however, would follow for both Boozer and the Jazz.

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