SALT LAKE CITY — As the Utah Jazz enter the most critical stretch of their season, they may be forced to make their playoff push without an integral part of their lineup.
Enes Kanter, Utah's 6-foot-10 backup center, suffered a dislocated shoulder early in the second quarter of Wednesday night's 103-88 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
The second-year big man from Turkey sustained the injury while wrestling on the floor for a loose ball with Phoenix's Hamed Haddadi with 10:23 remaining in the second quarter.
When the official's whistle blew signaling a jump ball, Kanter sat up and was obviously in severe pain as he stood up and slowly made his way toward the Jazz bench — his collarbone visibly jutting up out of his shoulder socket.
It was an ugly sight that was difficult to watch, putting somewhat of a damper on the Jazz's victory as they try to overtake the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Wincing with terrible discomfort etched all over his face, Kanter was immediately taken into the locker room by Jazz trainer Gary Briggs — who briefly appeared to be trying to pop Kanter's shoulder back in place courtside, but to no avail.
Kanter was scheduled for an MRI evaluation on the shoulder today.
"I'm all right," the effervescent Kanter said in the locker room after the game, his left arm hanging in a sling. "I just fell to the ground and the other guy just fell on my arm. It's disconnected, but I'm all right.
"Right now I'm all right. I can't feel any pain right now. I will see. I'll get an MRI tomorrow. ... I think I'll be fine. The Jazz doctors and Jazz trainers, I think, doing a great job and that's why I believe I'll be fine. What can I do? I can't do nothing about it, so I'm not going to sit here and cry. I'm going to keep believing I'll be OK.
"I couldn't lift up my arm and I looked at my shoulder and I was like, 'Oh, no,'" Kanter said of how he felt when the injury occurred. "That was the first time (he had suffered such an injury) so I was like, 'Oh, shoot.'"
When told he would likely receive plenty of sympathy from female fans, Kanter said, "They're already texting me."
Before Wednesday night's early exit, Kanter had scored in double figures in 10 of Utah's previous 12 games. For the season, the 20-year-old center came into Monday night's game averaging 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Veteran center Al Jefferson, who has served as Kanter's mentor the past two seasons, was extremely sorry to see his young protege go down with an injury that could sideline the kid they call "Big Turkey" for as much as a week or two.
"It's tough, man, especially (because) he was playing so well, and he's been coming in with a lot of confidence," Jefferson said. "But it's part of the game. You're going to have injuries, and it could've been a lot worse. He's a young kid and he's gonna work real hard, but it sucks for him to get hurt this time of the year, especially when he was playing so well.
"I'm not gonna let him feel sorry for himself and it seems like he's in a good mood right now. He know what he gotta do. So he's gonna bounce back and work real hard to get it back.
"He's come in some games and changed the momentum around," said Jefferson, who scored 25 points and pulled down nine rebounds in Wednesday's win. "... To be honest with you, this game was for these playoffs, but when he went down, I was going, like, 'OK, man, I've got to step up even more now.' We're gonna fight for him to the end and make his injury worth something."
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