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Utah Jazz could be down to just eight players tonight

Published: Monday, March 7 2011 12:18 p.m. MST

NEW YORK — The daily injury update this morning took a bit longer than usual for the Utah Jazz public relations specialist who accompanies the team on the road.

And it might make for an awfully shorthanded situation tonight when the Jazz play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

As expected, center Mehmet Okur (back) and reserve guard Ronnie Price (toe) will not play.

But they will be joined on the sideline in dress clothes tonight by at least two more Jazz players.

Backup big man Francisco Elson won't play and is suffering a sprained left ankle and inflamed left knee. Elson's injuries occurred in Saturday's overtime win over Sacramento when he blocked DeMarcus Cousins' shot and then twisted his leg after falling on the Kings' rookie on the court.

Also, 7-1 center Kyrylo Fesenko continues to be bothered by back spasms, which made him leave that Kings' game in the fourth quarter.

It could get worse.

Starting forwards Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) and Paul Millsap (left patellar tendinitis) are also dealing with injuries and will be game-time decisions tonight.

Those two are expected to play after going through shootaround, but if they don't the 14-player Jazz would be left with just eight guys in uniform (or nine if just one misses).

Don't expect the new-look Knicks, led by Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, to be too sympathetic to the Jazz as Utah begins an important four-game road trip.

"It's tough, but the guys have to step up," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We feel a little better about ourselves after getting a win at home. We understand the importance of winning all of these games, so the guys on the floor are going to be ready to go."

For now, Corbin is planning on using his usual starting lineup of Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Kirilenko, Millsap and Al Jefferson, but he won't know for sure for a few hours.

Millsap admitted he's been playing with knee pain for some time now, and he didn't sound overly convincing that he'll be able to play.

"Right now, honestly, I don't know," he said. "I'd probably try."

Millsap feels the pressure because of the Jazz's playoff standing (out currently) and because of all of the other injuries on the team. He called it a "tough situation."

"You want to get out there," he said, "but you don't want to get out there and hurt yourself and hurt the team at the same time, so you've got to be smart about it."

Added Millsap: "I'm a little hard-headed, so I've been dealing with it a little bit. I don't like to say I'm hurt when I'm hurt, so I should've paid a little bit more attention to it earlier and it flared up on me."

The injuries will likely lead to more time for rookie forward Derrick Favors and perhaps even for rookie Jeremy Evans, who rejoined the Jazz after playing for the Utah Flash over the weekend.

e-mail: jody@desnews.com Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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