The calendar countdown has begun.
Point guard Deron Williams will be out at least two weeks because of his sprained ankle, the Jazz announced Monday.
That means he is expected to miss the team's 2008-09 NBA regular-season opener Oct. 29 against the Denver Nuggets.
And maybe more.
After performing an MRI exam Monday, team physician Dr. Lyle Mason determined Williams has a second-degree inversion sprain of the left ankle.
The MRI also showed all bone structures and tendons in and around the ankle to be normal.
According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association media guide, a second-degree sprain involves "partial tear of a ligament."
Ligament is a band of fibrous, joint-strengthening tissue connecting either bone to bone or bone to cartilage.
Timetable for Williams' return to action, according to a statement from the team, is "a minimum of two weeks."
That means Williams would miss not only the opener at EnergySolutions Arena but probably also a Nov. 1 home game against the Los Angeles Clippers with a possible return either in a Nov. 3 visit with the Clippers at L.A. or Nov. 5 at home vs. Portland.
The trainers guide, though, also said an athlete with a second-degree ankle sprain could miss up to four weeks meaning it's possible Williams could be out even deeper into November.
For some, though, the return can't be soon enough.
"We're still hoping Deron will be able to recover as quick as possible," backup Ronnie Price said Monday.
"Everybody knows he's the engine of our team," forward Andrei Kirilenko added with regard to a point guard who averaged 18.8 points, 10.5 assists and 1.1 steals while not missing a game last season. "So we hope he gets well soon."
Jazz players aren't alone.
"We can't do anything about it other than hope he gets healthy as soon as possible, and go ahead and play," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan added Monday, before the diagnosis was made public.
"Our job still remains the same, regardless of who is here," Sloan added. "You've got to coach and try to get them to play the best we can. That's what everybody else does."
Williams who was not available to discuss the injury prior to practice Monday sprained the ankle in the first quarter of Saturday night's 88-80 win at Chicago, the Jazz's second-to-last game of the preseason.
He also will miss Thursday night's exhibition finale vs. Portland.
With Williams out, Sloan seems inclined to start Price with the Jazz's regular starters and to have swingman C.J. Miles bring the ball up while usual small forward Kirilenko plays a point-forward position with the second-teamers.
"I'm willing to play any position Coach wants me," Kirilenko said Monday.
Starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer may handle the ball more as well.
"Each one of those guys can get us into our offense," Sloan said of Miles and Brewer, two swingman who on occasion play the point in practice. "We may not run the floor as well. Those guys are probably not true point guards, obviously. But you can still get the ball up the floor and get into your offense."
Sloan also could use veteran point Brevin Knight, but he has missed part of training camp and much of preseason due to back and thumb injuries.
Knight did not practice Monday because of his sprained left thumb, and the Jazz are calling him "day-to-day" but close to being ready to return.
"This is who we are," Sloan said. "Ronnie Price gets a chance to play a lot more minutes. C.J. (Miles) might play some there at point guard. Brevin Knight, we haven't seen a lot of him. ... So, we just have to see who we are and what we've got, is all I know."
Jazz teammates didn't seem to know much more Monday.
"You can't replace a guy," Miles said, "that's a double-double guy from the point guard position. ... We're just gonna try to pick it up, and just try to stay in our offense and play the way we know how we can play."
"It's up to the entire team to pick up where he left off, and we're going to have to make things happen on the floor without him," Price added. "So, it's gonna be a team effort."
Price, for one, readily acknowledges he'll need help.
"I'm not Deron," he said Monday, reiterating comments made Saturday in Chicago. "I can't do the things that Deron does on the court. ... All I can do is my job and try to play as good as possible, and run the team, get guys shots and still bring my energy."Coach is gonna make the right decisions," he added. "He's gonna put guys in the right spots, and we're gonna have to do the best we can to win games."