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Utah Jazz: Mehmet Okur rehabbing in Salt Lake while teammates hit road

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 9 2010 12:39 p.m. MST

Mehmet Okur sits near the team bench during NBA action in Salt Lake City, Oct. 14, 2010. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Mehmet Okur sits near the team bench during NBA action in Salt Lake City, Oct. 14, 2010. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — While his 12 teammates spent Tuesday dealing with the Heat in Miami, Mehmet Okur was hard at work in Utah.

The Jazz's longtime starting center didn't travel with the team for its four-games-in-five-nights trip this week, staying behind so he can continue to rehab his surgically repaired Achilles tendon.

Okur said he works out twice a day with a physical therapist while the team, which opened its 2010-11 NBA season at Denver and also has visited Oklahoma City, is on the road.

"The reason he stays behind ... is it's important for us to get two-a-day in with him (and) to get one-on-one (attention)," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said.

"Gary (Briggs, the team's traveling head trainer) has got to treat, and Brian (Zettler, who is Briggs' assistant and also travels) has got to treat 12 players after a game. ... This way we can get a lot of stuff done (with Okur)."

Utah Jazz center Memo Okur, who ruptured his Achilles tendon, was fitted with a special boot for the second stage of his recovery. (memo13.com) Utah Jazz center Memo Okur, who ruptured his Achilles tendon, was fitted with a special boot for the second stage of his recovery. (memo13.com)

The Jazz have not set any sort of timetable as to when Okur, a one-time NBA All-Star, might be back.

The nature of the injury — ruptured Achilles, a somewhat rare but typically quite devastating basketball injury — has much to do with that.

The Achilles is the thick, strong tendon running from the middle of the calf down toward the heel, and in Okur's case repairing it meant open surgery.

"This is something new with us," O'Connor said. "With a knee, you (know) 'this is about how long.' "

With a torn Achilles — once considered a career-ending injury — full rehab can last anywhere from three months to nine or more.

In some cases, being able to trust the Achilles without fear of a re-rupture further delays matters. So does making certain a returning player can not only make moves of his own, but also react to those of others.

"So it's really difficult for us," O'Connor said, to pinpoint when Okur might return.

The Jazz are prepared for the possibility of post-Christmas, but just aren't sure. Okur was injured last April, in Game 1 of Utah's first-round playoff series with the Denver Nuggets.

Without the big Turk, Utah has been starting offseason acquisition Al Jefferson as an undersized center next to power forward Paul Millsap.

What the Jazz gain inside with that pair often is lost on the perimeter, where strong-shooting Okur — a full-time starter each of the past five seasons, and a double-digit scorer for each of his first six years in Utah — can knock down 3-pointers and spread the floor.

Spacing issues consequently have at times hampered the Jazz, who beat Miami in overtime on Tuesday to improve to 4-3.

"We're inconsistent," O'Connor said.

"We expected it, to be honest with you, a little bit. I think when you add a couple of new players and you take Memo (Okur) out of the rotation — you forget that part of it.

"You know, everyone's kind of looked at everything that's new instead of saying, 'Well, we're missing kind of a key ingredient,' " the Jazz GM added. "Hopefully when we get him back it will add something back into the team."

Even that process, though, could come with a cost.

"We'll probably have a quarter of a step backward to get him back into the lineup and get him onto the court," O'Connor said. "But then, after that, hopefully it improves us."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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