SALT LAKE CITY — Mehmet Okur's injured back passed all the necessary tests in his first game since Dec. 29.
Hit a 3-pointer? Of course.
Guard one of the best players in the NBA in Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire? Absolutely.
Get in the paint and dunk? Sort of.
"I felt great," Okur said. "I'm still feeling good, and during the game I felt good. I didn't want a setback."
In his first game since straining his lower back against the Clippers, Okur played a little more than 12 minutes and scored 10 points. He also had two rebounds and two assists.
Okur received a warm greeting from Jazz fans when he entered Utah's 131-125 win over the Knicks at the start of the second quarter. He quickly assisted on a 3-pointer by C.J. Miles, and hit a fadeaway jumper to give the Jazz a 38-36 lead.
"I thought Memo played well," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "We ran a couple pick-and-rolls for him, some post ups for him. I thought he handled himself really well. I thought he was back to where he was just before his back started bothering him."
The back problem is the third injury Okur has dealt with this season. He missed Utah's first 26 games while rehabbing from a ruptured Achilles suffered against the Nuggets in last season's playoffs. He sprained his ankle in his second game back, played two more games, and then hurt his back.
Okur missed six games with that strained lower back before returning against the Knicks on Wednesday night.
"Watching him practice, and go through the stuff, the problems he's had, I'm happy for him that he looked as good as he did," said Sloan.
So are his teammates.
"I'm very happy for him to get back," said Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko. "We definitely need him. He's a huge force for us in and out. He's still getting there, and I think he's going to get better and better."
Okur sat out the entire third quarter before playing a little more than half of the fourth quarter. He started out the period guarding Stoudemire and handled himself well in defending one of the league's top scorers.2 comments on this story
"It could have been better," Okur said of his defense. "I fouled him a couple times, but it was nice game to win at home."
Okur's final basket of the game was a dunk that came off of a nice pass from Ronnie Price.
"That was a baby dunk," Okur said. "I was going to lay in, but I kind of got confused — lay in or dunk. But I got two points and that's all that matters."