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Utah Jazz notebook: Mehmet Okur plans to play for Turkey

Jazz center confident he'll be in World Championships

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 4:57 a.m. MDT

TORONTO — His participation status had been uncertain.

But after meeting over dinner Tuesday night here in Toronto with two officials from the Turkish Basketball Federation, Türkiye Basketbol Federasyonu, Jazz center Mehmet Okur seemed confident Wednesday that he'll play when later this year his home country hosts FIBA's World Championships.

"Pretty much I'll be there," said Okur, who scored 16 in Utah's win Wednesday at Toronto.

Okur hasn't played for his national team the past few years, partly because of concerns over the wear-and-tear of taking part in — and training for — international play.

But along with fellow NBA players Hedo Turkoglu of Toronto and Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova, he's one of Turkey's highest-profile athletes — spurring his interest in the FIBA tournament.

Turkish federation president Turgay Demirel didn't attend the dinner meeting because national-team coach Bogdan Tanjevic is undergoing colon cancer surgery today in Turkey.

But Okur's desire to take part was shared with the federation officials who were there.

"I told them I want to come, and I want to play 100 percent," he said.

Still, there are concerns about the Turkish team's lengthy and intense training regimen.

"I'm not 18 anymore, to be honest," the 30-year-old said, "(but) I told them I want to come in 100 percent and give my 100 percent.

"It's really hard to ... to run outside, and mountains, jumping, stuff like that," added Okur, who won silver with Turkey's 2001 European Championships team. "Because we play 100 games over here (in the NBA, including preseason/postseason games) ... I said I'll do that stuff, but if you want give my 100 percent, you just have to trust me. It went quite well."

Turkey's official 12-man roster hasn't been named, but Okur joins Jazz teammates Andrei Kirilenko (Russia), Deron Williams (Team USA), ex-Jazz guard Carlos Arroyo (Puerto Rico) and former University of Utah center Andrew Bogut of Milwaukee (Australia) among those expected to take part in the world's most important international basketball event besides the Olympics.

The 24-nation tourney runs Aug. 28 through Sept. 12 at sites throughout Turkey.

KIRILENKO OUT: Kirilenko took part in the Jazz's shootaround Wednesday morning, but the starting small forward didn't play on Wednesday night.

Kirilenko missed his fourth straight game and sixth among Utah's last seven due to a strained left calf.

"Some of the explosions — mostly, like, runs, sprints — still are a little stiff," he said. "But it's definitely getting better and better every day."

Backup C.J. Miles again started in Kirilenko's place.

SLOAN ON KARL: Reacting to an ESPN.com report that Denver Nuggets George Karl may not return before the playoffs due to his ongoing battle with throat cancer, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan sympathized Wednesday.

"I watched it a great deal with my wife," he said, "and you hate to see anybody have the aftereffects of that kind of treatment.

"You've got to fight as much as you can."

Sloan lost his first wife, Bobbye, to pancreatic cancer.

WARDROBE MATTERS: The Jazz improved to 10-1 in their throwback green jerseys, which they were wearing for the final time this season.

The lone loss came to the Los Angeles Lakers, incidentally, and the Jazz won't be allowed to wear the special uniforms in postseason play.

The Raptors wore throwback jerseys of their own — inscribed on the front with the nickname "Huskies," a nod to the 1946 charter-member team of the Basketball Association of America that merged with the National Basketball League and became the NBA in 1949.

HE SAID IT: Raptors coach Jay Triano, to the Toronto Sun, after being asked if he can imagine coaching as long as Sloan has: "I just want to live that long."

MISC.: Jazz backup center Kyrylo Fesenko returned after missing Monday's win over Boston because of a stomach ailment. ... Turkoglu sat out Wednesday's second half due to stomach flu. ... Toronto had just eight assists Wednesday, tying its season-low.

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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