I was literally in a cast the whole summer — we’re talking like three months. “It’s been long. It’s been long, but I’m really excited to get back out there. —Marvin Williams, Utah Jazz forward
CHICAGO — Good news has been hard to come by for the Utah Jazz since the team carried its seven-game losing streak from the preseason into the first week of the 2013-14 regular season.
At least the Jazz continue to make progress on the injury front.
In a surprise, Marvin Williams made his season debut during the Jazz’s 97-73 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.
Earlier in the day, Williams and Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin had talked about the small forward possibly returning from his offseason Achilles heel surgery for the first time Saturday night in Toronto.
Williams called it a "coach's decision," and he was more than happy to oblige.
In another reversal, shooting guard Brandon Rush did not play Friday as Corbin had said he might during his shootaround interview. Rush hasn’t played since Tuesday when he had 10 scoreless minutes against Brooklyn — the first time he’d played in an NBA game since tearing the ACL in his left knee on Nov. 2, 2012.
Corbin said the new Jazz player experienced some pain before the game, so he opted to sit him and play Williams.
As for Williams, the NBA veteran said his Achilles “feels good” and was confident enough to test it in a real game Friday morning. He lacks a bit of explosiveness, but doctors have told him that will return as he plays more.
“It’s definitely strong enough to get out there and play,” Williams said.
Williams has had injuries before — a back surgery kept him out eight weeks — but this medical issue has been tough to deal with for multiple reasons.
“I was literally in a cast the whole summer — we’re talking like three months,” Williams said. “It’s been long. It’s been long, but I’m really excited to get back out there.”
Williams hit his first 3-pointer shortly after checking into the game. He then missed the next four shots in his 11-minute stint. He also had three turnovers and three fouls.
“Man, I felt really good for not having played basketball in five months,” Williams said. “I feel like I was OK out there.”
The Jazz are partially relieved and somewhat excited to start getting some of the guys who are expected to be regular rotation players back into the mix.
Utah has only had 10 available players in four games and 11 guys twice during this 0-6 start because Williams, Rush, Trey Burke (finger), Jeremy Evans (rotator cuff) and Andris Biedrins (ankle) have been sidelined with health problems.
“It’s huge. We’ve got a lot of guys injured and banged up. It’s definitely taking a toll on us,” Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward said. “When they come in and are ready to play, it’s good to have some people who can space the floor and (provide) some veteran leadership.”
It isn’t certain whether Williams or Rush will play tonight at Toronto.
“No pain, thankfully,” Williams said when asked how his Achilles responded to action. “I’m a little stiff, but they say that’s to be expected.”
Burke continues to make progress as well. He hasn’t been cleared to practice yet, but he has been allowed to run and do more conditioning. The 2013 NCAA player of the year will be re-evaluated Monday by the hand specialist who surgically repaired his fractured right index finger almost four weeks ago.
In an encouraging sign, Burke sank a one-handed 12-foot shot using his right hand while reporters talked to Corbin following shootaround.
HARD TO WATCH: Williams admitted it’s tough to be on the sideline while your team struggles.
“It’s always difficult. I’m a part of this team just like everybody else,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m not out there to kind of help them. There are times when I feel like I can definitely help the team out when I’m not out there, but I try to stay as involved as much as I can whether it’s pulling guys aside and telling them what I see and I’m always trying to be as positive as I can for everybody on the bench.”
HOMECOMING: Veteran guard John Lucas III couldn’t wait to be on the court again in Chicago, where he played during various stints between 2010-12.
“It’s very special. This is like my second home. I love it here,” Lucas said. “It’s always good to play in the United Center when you play there (as a Bull) and also when you come back and play. It’s electrifying in there. The atmosphere is crazy. It’s a lot of history there. It’s just, I love it.”
NOT POINTING FINGERS: Corbin on the struggles of Lucas and Jamaal Tinsley at point guard: “We need everybody to play well. I can’t point at one position.”