Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Andrei Kirilenko didn't pull out a crystal ball or some Russian tarot cards.
That didn't stop him from using his predicting powers about Game 3.
Boldly, Kirilenko declared the following: "I don't think I'm going to get 48 minutes."
Another prognostication the versatile voyeur made during Thursday's practice might give his teammates and Utah Jazz fans a little more hope for Saturday's second-round game at EnergySolutions Arena.
Optimistically, Kirilenko doesn't think he's going to get zero minutes, either.
He fully intends to return for the third Jazz-Lakers showdown after missing 23 of the past 25 regular season and playoff games because of his oft-strained left calf.
"Right now I feel like I'm going on a good program," he said, "and I should be ready for Saturday."
Kirilenko's minutes will likely be limited, and it remains to be seen if the contribution he'll be able to make after nursing injuries for two months will be, too.
Coach Jerry Sloan, perhaps more cautious than optimistic, used the phrase "wait and see" several times on Thursday. He isn't sure how game-ready Kirilenko will be by Saturday, conditioning-wise or health-wise.
"He hasn't played in a long time," Sloan said. "I don't know that I'd play him that much. I just hope that we could get some minutes somewhere along the line — that would give us some help."
Considering the Lakers' height, Sloan indicated he'll probably use Kirilenko more as a power forward — throwing him in the mix down low to help Utah's overwhelmed bigs.
The Jazz, no doubt, would also love to see his lanky, athletic 6-foot-9 frame get in Kobe Bryant's way.
"We're definitely happy to have him back," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "It's just a different look than we've had. He's a guy that does a lot of special things for us on this team defensively, offensively.
"He just brings intangibles to the game."
Kirilenko admits he's also bringing a lot of rust to the first game he's played in since March 26. He compares the process he's going through right now to getting ready for the preseason.
"You started over," he said, "haven't played for two months. It's going to be pretty tough, but you have to start."
Kirilenko said he might have been able to play a few minutes in Game 2, but opted instead to come back even stronger after the series' three-day break in action.
The Jazz didn't have a full practice Wednesday, but he participated in what Sloan described as "pick-up stuff" on the team's off-day.
"He's made progress," Sloan said. "Seems to be getting better."
Kirilenko, who underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy a week-and-a-half ago, will continue to work on his conditioning leading up to Game 3, with a focus on improving his motion and speed. The encouraging news is that he's pain-free.
"Nothing bothered me," he said of Wednesday's full-contact session.
Not physically, at least.
There is some lingering trepidation of Strain IV, seeing as he's re-injured the calf twice after tweaking it originally on March 12 in Milwaukee.
"It really feel way different than even like two days ago," Kirilenko said. "Every day it really feels like you kind of get rid of those feelings, those fearness, that you can't really step on your leg — so I like that feeling."
Kirilenko also likes the feeling he's having of anticipating not being in street clothes behind the bench.
"You know you're not going to help behind the bench," he admitted. "So that's kind of a tough feeling."
Kirilenko hopes to work up to being able to play and do "all of the little things" for about 20-30 minutes, but that will depend on how he feels, performs and how his coach spreads out playing time.
"As much as he's going to give me," Kirilenko said, "I'll take it."
Kirilenko doesn't want to go out there just to be out there on the court for a quarter or so.
"I'll be ready to play," he said.
Kirilenko later added with hopeful tone, "Not survive, but play."
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