Michael Brandy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Kyrylo Fesenko — yes, Carmelo Anthony, him — is acting flattered from all of the attention he's getting lately.
It's coming from the media, some of whom are even interested in hearing his thoughts about strategy — not just his latest jokes.
From people, including shooting coach Jeff Hornacek and Andrei Kirilenko, trying to help him improve his woeful free-throw shooting.
Even from Denver's star, who complimented the Jazz center in a condescending way after Utah's 116-105 win Sunday by incredulously saying, "Fesenko? Fesenko? Don't get me wrong. He is a great player. He's playing with a lot of confidence, but … Fesenko?"
Hardly wanting to get into a war of words, Fesenko had a simple response to Melo: "Thank you — another PR for me. That's good."
Fesenko didn't specify whether PR stood for public relations — as in the more PR, the better — or for personal record. The latter was the case with his free throws.
Fesenko's 4-for-7 charity-stripe showing set career playoff marks for the third-year player in makes and attempts. The 40-percent career free-throw shooter even believes the Nuggets decided not to Foul-a-Fes in the final minutes because he hit a pair of clutch freebies with two minutes left to put the Jazz up 111-100.
"That was a really big accomplishment for me," Fesenko said Monday.
Kirilenko, a mentor, agrees.
"I was like, 'Yeah!' " he said. "Because the day before we've been practicing free throws and I was screaming different kinds of stuff, bad stuff. So he's kind of focused and don't pay attention to that and what people (are) screaming ... and it paid off."
Fesenko shot 100 free throws before Jazz practice and planned to repeat that afterward.
He's trying to improve and incorporate all of the advice everybody is giving him (or yelling at him?).
"Sometimes, I just get frustrated thinking too much," Fesenko admitted. "Everybody who talks to me about free throws they finish with, 'And try not to think too much when you're shooting, just shoot them.' "
For the series, Fesenko is 6-for-13 from the stripe.
Carlos Boozer chuckled when jokingly asked if Fesenko gave him any advice after the power forward struggled through a 5-for-9 free-throw shooting night Sunday.
"Nah," Boozer said, "but I'm proud he hit his free throws."
COMING SOON?: Kirilenko returned to the court Monday for the first time since re-injuring his left calf almost two weeks ago. His plans included sliding movements and jogging, following a weekend of doing cardio exercise on equipment and some resistance swimming.
Kirilenko, who underwent platelet rich plasma therapy last Monday in hopes of expediting his recovery, will travel for Game 5 Wednesday in Denver. He still is shooting to return by this weekend in case this series goes six or seven games but admits that might be a long shot.
"(Games) 6-7 is highly unlikely, but it's a good goal," he said. "I'm still aiming for this. If I'm going to feel good I will definitely play."
Then again, he'd rather the Jazz wrap up the first-round series in Game 5 and avoid a Friday game. Kirilenko also stressed that the Jazz trainers aren't rushing him back because of his "history of bad comebacks" on his calf, which has been injured three different times since mid-March.
MORE RARE AIR: Deron Williams has joined more elite company. With a 24-point, 13-assist outing Sunday, he became only the fourth NBA player ever to record at least 20 points and 10 assists in the first four games of a playoff series.
This 20-10 club also includes: Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati Royals, 1965 Eastern Division semis vs. Philadelphia); Kevin Johnson (Phoenix Suns, 1989 Western Conference Finals against the Lakers); and Magic Johnson (1990, Western Conference semis vs. Phoenix).
Last week, the Jazz point guard became just the second player in NBA history to score at least 33 points with 14 assists as he did in Utah's 114-111 Game 2 win.
SLAMMED DUNKER: Wesley Matthews, as you'd expect, got grief from teammates for botching an open-court slam dunk Sunday when the ball slipped out of his hands.
"I was trying to bring the rim down," he said.
He made another big dunk later on, but Jazz players teased Matthews that he'd make ESPN — for the wrong reason.
"They were talking about 'Not Top 10.' I don't care about that," he said, smiling. "They've all been on 'Not Top 10' before. People have missed dunks, been dunked on. It's the NBA. It's basketball."
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