Utah Jazz notebook: Sore hammy delays Francisco Elson's Jazz debut
SALT LAKE CITY — Francisco Elson will have to wait another day to make his debut with the Utah Jazz.
The 7-footer, a pre-camp free-agent pickup by Utah, sat out Thursday's 100-96 preseason-opening win over Portland with a strained right hamstring.
The 34-year-old said he was "just really sore" after getting injured during Thursday morning's shootaround. It's uncertain when he'll return to action.
Elson's lost time was Kyrylo Fesenko's gain.
With Mehmet Okur out, Fesenko and Elson figure to be battling to earn backup center minutes behind starter Al Jefferson.
Before fizzling out in the second half, Fesenko was both aggressive and entertaining in the opening half. He finished with five points and four rebounds with some strong drives (although one dunk attempt after a sweet spin move got blocked by the rim) and even hit a mid-range jumper.
The 7-foot-1 center, who signed a one-year qualifying offer prior to the start of camp, also blocked a shot and included a bonus Dikembe Mutumbo-esque finger wave at 6-3 Armon Johnson.
Fesenko was disappointed about his loss of focus in a scoreless, one-board second half.
"I think I failed mentally, couldn't stay in the game," Fesenko said. "And I need to work on it obviously."
As for Elson, it's the first tweaked hammy in his eight-year NBA career.
"I was just shocked that it happened," the Dutch center said.
"Luckily it ain't the regular season," he added. "It's OK to have it now and then be ready for the regular season."
MORE FES: Coach Jerry Sloan was not at all amused by Fesenko's Dikembe imitation, and he let the fourth-year player hear about it at halftime.
"He blocked a shot and got real cute after that and pointed at the player, and from that point he kind of took himself out of the game," Sloan said. "Those things you've got to learn to keep focused on playing. Everybody in this building knew he blocked a shot."
Deron Williams smiled but said he hopes that's the last time Fesenko does that.
"That's Fes," he said. "Fes has got to realize when he does something good, just act like it's normal. Act like he's done it before."
Points taken, Fesenko claimed.
"I'm really sorry that I did it," he said. "It was emotion, that's it. ... I'm not Dikembe Mutumbo. I'm not doing that (anymore)."
FINAL FIVE?: After shootaround Thursday, Sloan repeated to curious reporters that the finishing five is more important than starting lineup.
"We always have to (have a starting lineup)," Sloan cracked. "I don't know why that's the most important question I get asked, 'Who's going to start?' Now why don't somebody ask who's going to finish?"
Several TV reporters followed Sloan's suggestion and asked just that.
"I'm not telling ya," he joked.
Not surprisingly, Williams shared his coach's sentiment. He isn't sure people should put much stock in Thursday's opening five of Williams, Raja Bell, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, either.
"We always switch. (Sloan) switches lineups pretty much every game in the preseason," Williams said. "This is what he decided the first game. The next game's probably going to be something different. It really matters who finishes games."
PRESEASON HYPE: Earlier this week, Williams said he wasn't exactly excited to play preseason games. He just wants the regular season to begin.
With seven new players, Williams admitted this preseason is perhaps more critical than previous ones when the team returned mostly intact.
"I joked about wanting to get it over fast," he said, "but we need it especially this year because of all of the new faces. It's a bigger learning process for us this year."
The Jazz have seven more exhibition games to tune things up.
"We're going to need that extra little time to come together as a team, to learn each other," Williams said, "because you want to go into the regular season playing your best basketball and we need these three weeks to do it."
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