Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
They've moved forward as if he won't be coming back.
But the Jazz hope to learn for sure sometime soon if veteran forward Matt Harpring really has played his final NBA game.
"We're getting closer to making a decision as we get deeper into the season," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said Monday. "That's a conversation we'll have sooner than later, and we'll have it before Christmas.
"When I say 'Christmas' I'm not putting a timetable on it, but it's getting closer to being 'What is the position?' "
Harpring never did report to training camp, and has remained — with the Jazz's permission — at home in Atlanta due to chronic knee and ankle issues necessitating multiple surgeries.
The 33-year-old is in the final year of a four-year contract paying $6.5 million this season, but insurance should start covering up to 80 percent of his salary once he's missed half the season.
That will come in late January, unless he surprisingly decides to alter previous retirement plans.
"If he can't play, then we certainly should have the right to recoup anything we can get insurance-wise," O'Connor said. "But that's not what this is about. This is about whether he can play or not. ... It's about down the road, and whether he feels he can continue to play."
With Harpring absent, shooting guard Kyle Korver in California rehabilitating his surgically repaired knee, small forward C.J. Miles still out due to thumb surgery (he plans to practice Wednesday), combo guard Ronnie Price (toe/foot) out indefinitely and backup small forward Andrei Kirilenko sidelined because his back tightened up in last Saturday's win over Portland, the Jazz had just nine healthy players for Monday's game against Memphis.
It was the seventh time in the last nine games the Jazz have had just nine, and they would have had eight had backup power forward Paul Millsap not overcome the bruised left knee that knocked him out of Saturday's second quarter.
"We're used to it," point guard Deron Williams said of Utah's shorthanded state.
The Jazz have been trying to see the injury bug's bright side.
"It gives guys an opportunity to be on the floor a little bit longer," coach Jerry Sloan said. "The easiest thing to do in coaching is to play eight guys."
"It gives more sense of focus, more sense of urgency," power forward Carlos Boozer added. "But we'd like to have everybody healthy, believe me."
Because Kirilenko isn't expected to be out long-term the Jazz have no plans to sign a 15th player, O'Connor indicated Monday.
The Jazz don't play again until Friday vs. Indiana, and Kirilenko — who's missed at least one game with back issues in three of five seasons now — hopes to good to go then.
"It is getting better, but still a little tight," he said. "It's lucky we have three days between the games and I have a chance to recover a little bit."
MILLSAP UPDATE: Millsap missed practice Sunday but said he woke up Monday "feeling pretty good," so he played against the Grizzlies despite a knee bruise so severe pain shot up his leg when the injury occurred.
He played with a brace on the knee, which cost him three games last season because of a sprained posterior cruciate ligament.
HATE TAKE: Boozer knows something about rivalries, having played for the Duke.
But he can't quite relate to BYU quarterback Max Hall's hate tirade after the Cougars' win over the University of Utah last Saturday, saying he got along well enough with some of his University of North Carolina rivals that they'd hang together in the summertime.
"We had a good sense of respect for each other," Boozer said.
"Hate's a very strong word," he added. "But when you have a rivalry like that, stuff happens."
HE SAID IT: Sloan, on Sunday's firing of New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank: "It's sad ... It's too bad. He's a good coach. He's done a good job with the team when they had veteran players that knew how to play. You get young players and expect them to play like the veterans, and sometimes that doesn't happen."
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