Quantcast

Utah Jazz: Injuries a sore spot for depleted Jazz, Kirilenko out for series vs. Nuggets

Published: Friday, April 16 2010 9:59 p.m. MDT

Utah's Andre Kirilenko drives the basket as the Utah Jazz host the Memphis Grizzlies. (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Utah's Andre Kirilenko drives the basket as the Utah Jazz host the Memphis Grizzlies. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

DENVER — Usual starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko is out, for the series. Starting power forward Carlos Boozer may or may not play in Game 1, his earlier declaration notwithstanding. And starting center Mehmet Okur says he'll play, though not nearly at full strength.

Friday proved to be a downer of a day indeed injury-wise for the Jazz, who open their first-round NBA Western Conference playoff series Saturday night against a Denver Nuggets team they haven't faced in the postseason since beating them 4-3 in the 1994 conference semifinals.

"That's part of basketball," coach Jerry Sloan said.

"We want to have a team at full strength," point guard Deron Williams added, "but, you know, what can you do about injuries? You can't make a guy play if they're hurt, you know."

Utah's Andrei Kirilenko (center) (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah's Andrei Kirilenko (center) (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Sloan, though, can only hope all the pain doesn't ding Utah's hopes in the best-of-seven series.

"If you go with the mind, 'Let's try to get it over with, so we don't have to play,' " he said, "you're gonna have a tough time."

Kirilenko actually reinjured his strained left calf — yet again — on Thursday, during what team spokesman Jonathan Rinehart called "a light workout."

He missed 15 of the Jazz's final 17 regular-season games because of the calf — an area of the lower leg that actually is a collection of muscles — and, according to Rinehart, will "miss the next two weeks as we address other treatments."

The Jazz withheld news of the Kirilenko incident for a full day, prompting Sloan to say, "People think we're trying to hide something with these guys when they get hurt, but the bottom line is when they get hurt, we still have to do our job; they have to take care of themselves and get ready to play."

Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko (47) blocks the shot of New Jersey Nets forward Trenton Hassell. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko (47) blocks the shot of New Jersey Nets forward Trenton Hassell. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Boozer didn't practice Friday, because of the strained right-side oblique he sustained in Tuesday's win at Golden State — a stomach-muscle injury that kept him out of Wednesday's costly regular season-ending loss to Phoenix.

Boozer, who didn't join other Jazz players in meeting with media members prior to practice Friday, said on Wednesday night that he's "going to play this weekend, no matter what."

The Jazz, however, on Friday were calling their leading scorer and rebounder a "game-time decision" for tonight.

"We have to plan on him being there, from the conversations we've had with him and (trainer) Gary (Briggs)," Sloan said. "But in the event he's not, we're still going to play."

Okur also didn't practice Friday, but he plans to go despite the left Achilles' tendinitis that kept him out of the Jazz's April 9 win at New Orleans — even if it means having to take a pain-alleviating injection sometime Saturday.

Utah's Deron Williams (left) hugs Andrei Kirilenko as the Utah Jazz defeat the Dallas Mavericks. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah's Deron Williams (left) hugs Andrei Kirilenko as the Utah Jazz defeat the Dallas Mavericks. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

"It's still sore, and after the games really swollen," Okur said while peddling a stationary bike. "It just gives me a hard time sometimes.

"This is an injury you have to rest and ice down every day, but I don't have time for that, so I'm gonna go out there, give it my best, and if it really starts to bother me, probably I'm gonna get shot to make it numb and less painful, and we go from there."

Okur said he had "no clue" if his minutes will be limited today, but it's a possibility.

"Hopefully, those guys will be able to play, so we can have a team at full strength," Williams said of Boozer and Okur. "Because I think we're gonna need everybody."

They will not, however, have Kirilenko against Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets — which means backup C.J. Miles, who has been starting in his absence and was a starter throughout the 2008-09 regular season, will open at small forward tonight.

Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Delfino go after a loose ball at the EnergySolutions Arena. (Michael Brandy, Deseret News) Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Delfino go after a loose ball at the EnergySolutions Arena. (Michael Brandy, Deseret News)

"He does so much for our team," Miles said of Kirilenko, who averaged 11.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks in 58 games this season. "He does everything on the basketball court, takes pressure off the guys like Deron (Williams) and Boozer — Deron passing the ball, and Booz defensively because he can block shots, he can come and help.

"We definitely want him out there and need him to be a better team, but we're going to have to cope without him. We've had to do it for a while now."

Utah went 10-5 in the most recent 15 games Kirilenko missed.

With him still out, Miles suggested not only he and undrafted rookie starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews but also backup shooting guard Kyle Korver and backup power forward Paul Millsap will have to help out with the task of defending Nuggets star Anthony, who averages 28.2 points per game.

"Just got to step up. I've been playing the position for a while now," said Miles, who at age 23 is in his fifth NBA season. "This will be my first playoff series as a starter, so I'm just going to go into it and just try to help the team. Whatever I've got to do, I'm going to try to do it.

"I don't look at it as pressure, but, I mean, it's definitely some extra minutes and extra times where I'm going to have to be out there and try to be out there and just play hard and stay within my game and do the right things.

"It's basketball. It's the playoffs, but, I mean, it's still the same game," Miles said. "It'll be more intense. I look at it as being fun, being able to get 30-something minutes in a playoff game."

Kirilenko first hurt his calf during a March 12 game at Milwaukee.

The one-time NBA All-Star sat out two games, then hurt it again in a March 17 home win over Minnesota.

After sitting out four games, Kirilenko — also not made available for comment Friday — tried to return again on March 27 at Washington. When he re-strained the calf that time, according to the Jazz, it was on a different area of the same muscle.

Kirilenko missed Utah's last eight straight games, underwent hyperbaric-chamber treatment designed to expedite healing and, before Thursday — when he apparently got hurt taking part in 2-on-2 play with three teammates — had been hoping to return tonight.

Instead, according to Rinehart, "an MRI revealed a muscle strain in a different spot than the previous two."

According to sportsmedicine.about.com, there are three grades of calf strain involving tears of various degree, the least serious grade of which requires two weeks for full recovery and the most serious of which "can take three to four months and, in some instances, surgery may be needed."

Sloan was on hand when Kirilenko got hurt again Thursday.

His reaction?

"I can't react," the Jazz coach said. "I mean, what am I gonna do? Go jump and hit my head against the wall? I'm not gonna do that.

"Bottom line is, he got hurt. We're sitting here watching him get hurt. I felt bad for him. He wasn't very happy about it. He was devastated, but that's part of this business. You just try to encourage him to try to keep his spirits up, because there's not anything we can do about it. Give it treatment and hope he gets back as quick as possible."

When he first got hurt, Kirilenko never imagined he'd be out so long.

Save for two short comeback bids, though, it's now been five full weeks.

"For some reason or another, it carried a little farther than what it should be," Sloan said after news of Kirilenko's latest setback finally was made public. "But there's nothing we can do about it. We have to play, and that's the breaks of basketball."

Or at least the strains.

Contributing: Jody Genessy

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company