Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
LOS ANGELES — With much-missed starting center Mehmet Okur looking Monday like he's decidedly less than ready to return, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan suggested he's inclined to keep his Game 1 opening lineup intact for tonight's Game 2 of Utah's first-round NBA playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers.
That means veteran big man Jarron Collins starting at center, and usual backup shooting guard Kyle Korver at small forward in place of benched regular-season starter C.J. Miles.
"We can't worry about that," Sloan said with regard to the continued absence of Okur, who has been out for a week with a strained right hamstring.
The Jazz initially deemed the strain to be merely "mild," but Okur didn't come close to playing in Sunday's 113-100 Game 1 loss.
The one-time NBA All-Star increased personal activity on the side during a morning workout session Monday, but again was unable to even practice with the club.
"If he's not here, we have to play the best we can without him," Sloan said Monday. "He's helped us win a lot of games. But, being injured — you have to play around that. That's why you have a 15-man roster."
The sporadically used Collins — he had just three starts and played in only 26 games during the regular season — finished 1-for-5 from the field in 15 minutes Sunday.
Utah trailed by 22 at halftime, but the Los Angeles-area high school product (Harvard-Westlake) did hit 5-of-6 from the free-throw line after the break.
He also wound up with seven rebounds.
"Well," Sloan said when asked about Collins' play, "Jarron struggled in the first half — as we all did.
"(But) I think it wasn't all his fault. He came out in the second half, and got himself going a little bit more."
Yet Okur's situation, make no mistake, is hampering the Jazz.
"We definitely miss Memo out here," point guard Deron Williams said before practice, echoing sentiments he shared after Sunday's loss. "He makes life easier on everybody when he's out there."
"We miss him a lot. Memo does so much for our team. He spreads the floor out. Not many centers step out and shoot the 3, and bring the opposing center out of the paint," power forward Carlos Boozer added Monday. "We're missing his offense, we're missing his presence out there. We're going to have to do the best we can without him, but hopefully we'll get him back sometime in the series."
But when? Even Okur has no clue.
"I wish I was out there playing with my teammates," he said. "I've got to look forward to getting healthy, and maybe play (tonight)."
After watching him gingerly attempt some lateral slides prior to Monday's practice, however, that seems quite unlikely.
Okur himself suggested he remains nowhere close to 100 percent — and indicated he still feels both pain and tightness in the muscle.
"Percentage-wise, I'm getting there," he said. "I would say about 65, 70.
"I'm looking for close to 100 percent. Maybe I'm not gonna be 100 percent. If I feel like my motion — jumping and running, pushing and stuff — feels good, then I'm gonna be out there."
But, Okur hastened to add, "This is the type of injury, if you're not really feeling good, and go out there and try to run, it could be worse."
For the No. 8 seed Jazz, who now can only hope to avoid being swept by the Western Conference's top-seeded Lakers, that reality couldn't come at a worse juncture.
"It's hard to tell — playing, or not playing, a couple days, one day, whatever," a downcast Okur said.
"Just bad timing," he added. "I mean, stuff like that happens."
Contributing: Brad Rock
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