Utah Jazz: Kirilenko hoping for quick return

Kings will retire Webber's jersey tonight against Jazz

Published: Friday, Feb. 6 2009 12:05 a.m. MST

Andrei Kirilenko doesn't like to miss games and especially not the ones against star players like former NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki.

"I definitely want to play. I don't want to sit on the bench and wait," he said prior to Utah's game against Dallas on Thursday. "I want to come back next game, but it doesn't matter what I want, it just depends how it feels."

Kirilenko's return won't happen before the upcoming All-Star Weekend, either. But the versatile Jazz forward, who's missed the past eight games and recently had surgery to remove bone fragments from his right ankle, has high hopes for Tuesday, Feb. 17.

When first asked about the timetable for his return, Kirilenko offered a "no idea." He quickly added a "but ... " in regards to the Memphis game that night.

"I'm aiming to play right after All-Star break. That's a little bit faster than it's supposed to be, but you know we'll see how it goes, because I haven't run yet," he said. "I will try to start slow, see how it feels, how it reacts and we'll go from there."

Kirilenko, who's sporting a walking boot, said the ankle that has caused him to miss a total of 10 games this season is "getting better and better." He isn't even experiencing soreness in that joint. He added, though, that his incision needs time to heal. He's scheduled to have his stitches removed today.

"I don't want to reopen it, that's the main thing," he said. "I feel pretty good with the walking. The only thing I feel sore with (is) the pressure and the scar and the incision."

Kirilenko hasn't resumed practicing yet, but he has been working out on his upper-body strength and doing weightlifting for his legs, including the hamstring above his recuperating ankle. He wants to keep blood flowing, muscles toned and, he said smiling, "so it doesn't forget how to work."

MIXED FEELINGS: The Sacramento Kings will retire the No. 4 jersey of Chris Webber at tonight's game against the Jazz. When informed about that celebration, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan admitted to having conflicting feelings and memories about Karl Malone's former frontcourt foe.

"He was a terrific player," Sloan said of Webber. "He could play probably just about anywhere you want to play him. He could play inside and outside. He was a very skilled player."

While Sloan doesn't question Webber's talent, he did, however, question the ex-King's toughness.

It's been nearly 10 years, but the Jazz coach still vividly remembers when the 6-foot-10 Webber whacked 6-1 John Stockton to the floor to send a message to the Jazz just nine seconds into a playoff game in 1999.

Sloan is still amazed Stockton got up.

"I thought that was one of the toughest, hardest hits I've ever seen a guy (get) hit and then get up. I mean, he knocked him (down)," Sloan recalled. "John will probably tell ya he didn't think he could get up. He got up and it showed what toughness he had."

It also showed Sloan a lot about Webber's character.

"There's no question John Stockon's toughness compared to Webber's, because if you're going to hit somebody you go get the biggest guy out there and level him," Sloan said. "Don't go after the smallest guy and knock him down. That doesn't show any toughness. He could have hurt John Stockton real easy."

LET'S GET PHYSICAL: Ronnie Brewer has heard what other teams, media members and fans sometimes say about the Jazz and their apparent penchant for physical play — an accusation by some, a downright compliment if you ask Sloan.

Utah's starting shooting guard isn't about to dub the Jazz the "Bad Boys II," though. Brewer doesn't even consider the Jazz all that physical.

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