PORTLAND, Ore. — If there's one thing Paul Millsap likes even less than missing games, it might be actually admitting he's hurt.
"What injury?" he asked when the subject was broached Saturday.
Sitting on the sideline after shootaround, Millsap smiled when asked Monday morning about the, um, circumstances that kept him out of the Jazz's preseason opener.
"I still don't know what you're talking about," he joked.
The coy Millsap's don't-call-it-an-injury condition has been diagnosed as right quadriceps tendinitis.
And it didn't make the durable power forward feel any better that it was only an exhibition contest against Portland that he missed for precautionary purposes.
"It's hard to sit out anything," Millsap said. "You want to get out there and play with your team."
Trust Millsap on that one. He's played in all 82 games in three of his five seasons and has only missed 12 of 410 games overall.
"I don't think anybody wants to sit out anything," Millsap said. "I'm not (one of those) types of guys. I don't want to get into the habit of being that type of guy. It's kind of tough to sit back and watch, but you've got to do it."
Millsap, officially day-to-day, said he's trying to be mature and smart about allowing his "injury" to fully recover before he returns.
"We'd rather have him healthy than not," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We'll take the hit now, hopefully get him completely healthy before we start the season."
THREE GOGGLE THIS: Thanks to quirky scheduling, the Jazz will play several Eastern Conference teams only once this irregular season.
But Monday's game was the first of six Utah will have against Portland, including the two exhibition contests and four regular season match-ups. They play again in Utah on Wednesday.
Corbin believes that could be a good thing because the Jazz will get a "free look" at their Northwest Division rival.
That goes both ways, of course.
Miles looks forward to the extra Portland showdowns for an entirely different reason.
"It'll just give me more time to talk trash to Wes (Matthews)," C.J. Miles said. "So that will be fun."
SURPRISE STARTER: With Millsap out, Corbin surprised many by putting Mehmet Okur in the starting lineup — a position the Turkish center hasn't been in since he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the 2010 playoffs.
Okur came off the bench in the 13 games he played in during his injury-plagued 2010-11 season.
"He came into camp in tremendous shape," Corbin said. "He did himself a great justice by playing in Turkey during the time we were off.
"I'm happy for the guy," the Jazz coach added. "I know he worked his butt off to give himself a chance to be back , and his work is showing."
FRESH START: Coming into the season, Miles didn't hide the fact that he wanted to crack the starting five. That helped drive him to drop 10 pounds of baby fat and gain strength this offseason.
"My goal was to come in and try to be the starter," said Miles, who got the small forward nod in this game over Gordon Hayward. "That's what I was working for, but obviously I'm not going to pout if that doesn't happen."
Miles believes he plays better when he starts. He knows this was just a preseason contest, but he appreciated the vote of confidence from his coach.
"I played hard during camp," Miles said. "I worked as hard as I could to try to show that I was going to be able to play either way."
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