Paul Beaty, Associated Press
CHICAGO The Jazz's $50-plus million investment hobbled out of the United Center here on crutches, so rudely flippant about the severity of his freshly sprained left ankle that he couldn't be bothered to stop and talk.
Everyone from head coach Jerry Sloan on down seemed genuinely concerned about the welfare of starting point guard Deron Williams following Utah's 88-80 preseason win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.
Yet all Williams had to offer were laughs and a wisecrack going so far as to joke that he planned to practice today.
It seems certain that won't be happening.
Beyond that, though, it's anyone's best guess as to whether Williams will be ready for the Jazz's Oct. 29 NBA regular-season opener against Denver and how much longer beyond that he might be out.
"Obviously I can't do anything about those things. I just feel bad for him," Sloan said of Williams, who signed a max-money contract extension this past offseason worth at least $50 million and potentially up to $70 million. "There's not anything we can do about it. That's life in basketball."
Teammate Carlos Boozer said Williams sprained the ankle "pretty badly," but the fact it was not broke was "great news."
"We all hope and pray that it's not as serious as it looked," reserve guard Ronnie Price said. "And we'll just keep him in our prayers, and hope he gets back soon."
A statement from the team said Williams sustained an inversion sprain, but that X-rays on the ankle which appeared to bend quite awkwardly were negative for any sort of bone fractures.
Inversion is the most common form of ankle sprain, occurring when the foot is turned or rolled inward.
The Jazz had no immediate timetable for Williams' anticipated absence, a team spokesman said.
General manager Kevin O'Connor said the club should know more in about "48 hours."
"All I know is we have to go forward and try to get ready to play," Sloan said. "I would never try to get a player back sooner than he should be ready to play.
"I would never jeopardize anybody's career," he added. "To me it's not that important. ... The most important thing is being cautious, and when he's ready to play, put him out there."
Williams sprained the ankle with five minutes and 39 seconds remaining in Saturday's opening quarter, when he appeared to land on the foot of Bulls rookie and 2008 No. 1 overall draft choice Derrick Rose.
The 2008 Olympic gold medal-winning guard remained on the court in obvious pain for several moments after initially sustaining the injury, then was carried off the United Center floor by teammates C.J. Miles and Ronnie Brewer.
Williams sat for a moment on the Jazz bench before being taken to the locker room in a wheelchair.
Jazz center Kyrylo Fesenko took the three free throws stemming from Rose's foul on Williams, and Price subsequently took over at the point.
Price was on the floor with the Jazz's usual regular-season finishers Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko and Kyle Korver for Utah's second-to-last game of the preseason.
Utah went dry on four straight possessions down the stretch, and that combined with a 3-pointer from former Jazz forward Roger Powell Jr. helped Chicago get to within five at 85-80.
But Boozer hit 1-of-2 free throws and Kirilenko made 2-of-2 from the line in the final 20 seconds, evening the Jazz's exhibition record to 3-3.
Kirilenko finished with a game-high 18 points, five assists and three blocks in 32 minutes.
Boozer had a 17-point, 16-rebound double-double in 35 minutes and converted 11-of-12 freebies, but he shot just 3-of-14 from the field.
Not playing Saturday was veteran point Brevin Knight, acquired in the offseason from the Los Angeles Clippers to battle Price for the backup job and provide long-stretch minutes should Williams be lost to a situation such as this.
He still has a sprained left thumb, complicating the point-guard picture with Williams now out as well.
Sloan said if Williams is unable to play when the regular season gets under way in a week-and-a-half, Price as things stand now would probably play ahead of Knight.
He also suggested that if Knight were unavailable as well as Williams, Kirilenko would handle the ball much more even if swingman C.J. Miles were to log minutes at the point, as he did for several minutes Saturday, in the final few seconds of Friday's exhibition loss to Bulls and in last Wednesday's preseason overtime loss at Denver.
New roles, however, seemed to be the least of concerns among Jazz players Saturday."I don't like to see anybody get hurt, especially my own teammate, and especially Deron," Price said. "You see how hard he's worked this summer, and can see how he's prepared himself to play the season. He's in top shape, and you just hate to see him go down."
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