Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Mehmet Okur wouldn't — still couldn't, he seemed to suggest — narrow down the window for how much longer it will be before he returns from Achilles tendon surgery.
Maybe more months?
Or something in between?
Okur simply isn't sure.
"It's just hard," he said, "to put any timetable, time on the table, to tell you guys how much farther I have, or how many days, weeks, whatever."
But the Jazz center did take a big step in the process Tuesday, when for the first time since rupturing his left Achilles last April, he both practiced and participated in a 5-on-5 scrimmage with teammates.
According to a Jazz spokesman's text message, Okur "completed" the full practice.
The Jazz, who play host tonight to New Orleans, had been anxiously anticipating that moment in Okur's progression.
But they know it's only one more check mark on a lengthy recovery list.
"The real test comes when you get up and down the floor, start banging and knocking people around and getting knocked around. How's that affect you?" Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said prior to the practice. "Everybody feels like that's the thing for him to do now in order for him to continue to make progress and go from there."
Sloan wasn't about to predict, either, when Okur might return — or guess how close to full strength he really is.
"I hear people say, well, he's 60 percent, he's 70 percent, 85 percent," Sloan said. "I don't know how in the heck a guy knows that."
Whatever the number now, teammates are eager to hear 100.
The Jazz have opened 10-5 with newcomer Al Jefferson, arguably more of a true power forward, playing center. But they miss the outside shooting and rebounding that the 6-foot-11 Turk, a one-time NBA All-Star, has to offer.
"I think he makes life easier on a lot of people," point guard Deron Williams said Tuesday. "It's no secret that he's been a big part of our success in the past, so we definitely look forward to getting him back and getting him healthy."
"We're not trying to push him. We're not in a desperate situation regardless," added Sloan, careful to make it clear he won't rush Okur. "The player's more important than us, and we try to approach it that way."
Before Tuesday, Okur had been running but playing mostly in 2-on-2 situations.
He said the purpose of taking part in Tuesday's scrimmage — his first 5-on-5 action in more than seven post-surgery months — was "to see myself what can I do, or what should I do more often."
Okur said he knows he still needs to "try to get my strength back a little bit and try to get back my calf muscle — a little bit bigger, stronger."
But whatever he does at this point, Okur indicated he's doing it all-out — and isn't holding back. Yet he also said he realizes he's still not in "basketball shape."
"Since I started to play 1-on-1 and 2-on-2s, I feel better and better every day," Okur said.
"I don't think about it too much, my leg," he added. "Just try to play hard, and hopefully I'm gonna get better soon. ... Hopefully I'm gonna catch up right away, and go from there."
Hornets at Jazz
Tonight, 7 p.m.
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