WASHINGTON — Jazz small forward Andrei Kirilenko didn't play in Saturday night's win at Washington because he reinjured his strained left calf in Friday's loss at Indiana.
But it wasn't because of a kick to the thigh, as the Jazz initially suspected.
Kirilenko on Saturday described the injury as a calf muscle "pull."
"It's not a kick," he said. "I took (video footage) and tried to slow-motion it, and I couldn't find a kick. So I think it's (a) pull."
Kirilenko, who back wearing his protected boot, described his pain as being "right of the calf," high on the muscle close to the bottom of his knee.
He did not know how much longer he'd be out and said he would undergo another MRI exam today to see how the damage compares to when the last one confirmed a strain.
Whatever the test shows, teammates hope that this time Kirilenko waits until he's fully healthy before returning yet again.
He's missed seven of Utah's last nine games because of the injury, and got reinjured in both of the games that he did play.
"It's been tough. I kind of wish A.K. would just sit out a couple, and wait until it heals, instead of playing a couple of games and trying it again and getting hurt," Deron Williams said. "You know, it puts him a tough position — but it also puts other guys in a tough position. We just need him to get healthy for the playoffs, is the main thing. I think we can hold on without him until then. But we need him for the playoffs."
"We've got guys that can step up, but A.K. brings so much to our team with his length, his ability to pass the ball, his defense. I'd rather him be healthy come playoff-time," Carlos Boozer added. "That's not one of my things — to make him play hurt while we finish out the last two or three weeks of the season. I'd rather him be healthy for our playoff run."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said before Saturday's game that the decisionmaking primarily is up to Kirilenko.
"We try to go on advice of the player, and I put it in his hands to try to decide," Sloan said. "He said he didn't have any pain."
But Sloan seems to understand where Williams and Boozer are coming from.
"We mentioned to Andrei a couple times," he said, "(that), 'We'd rather you take an extra day if it takes an extra day or if it takes an extra week take the extra week.' "
Backup C.J. Miles again started in Kirilenko's place.
He had 10 points Saturday and has scored in double figures in each of the last five games Kirilenko has missed.
BIRTHDAY BOY: Sloan turns 68 today.
Asked how he feels in light of that fact, the Jazz coach quickly quipped, "I feel with my fingers.
But seriously folks ...
"I feel terrific," Sloan said. "(Almost) a year ago I had my knee replaced and ... no longer does my back hurt. So I may wish I had had it done a little earlier now, because I don't have any back pain."
UNCLE YATTA: About a hundred family members, friends and fans — most from his hometown of New York City, some from the Washington area — filled the Verizon Center on Saturday to watch Jazz rookie point Sundiata Gaines play.
Some wore his No. 15 jersey, others held signs, including one reading, "Go Uncle Yatta."
"It feels great. ... It means a lot," said Gaines, who was still playing with Idaho of the NBA Development League when the Jazz played games earlier this season at New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Their reward: a 3-pointer with 3.9 remaining in Utah's win over the Wizards.
That shot, he suggested, came with no more pressure than the one he hit to beat Cleveland early in his stay with the Jazz.
"They were just happy for me to get in the game," Gaines said. "That was the main thing."
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