PHOENIX — Andrei Kirilenko is starting to feel a little snakebitten.
Kirilenko was seemingly on his way to having one of his best games of the season against the Phoenix Suns last Friday. In 14 minutes, he had eight points on 3-for-3 shooting, five rebounds and two assists.
Then he badly sprained his right ankle, and hasn't played since.
"I don't know, it's like a jinx to me," Kirilenko said. "Every time I start playing well something happens."
After sitting out against the Suns on Tuesday, Kirilenko has missed six games this season because of injuries. He had a lower back strain in late December, and sprained his left ankle earlier this month. He played in three games before hurting his other ankle on Friday.
Kirilenko is doubtful to play against the Golden State Warriors tonight, but should be back to full strength after the All-Star break.
"It's getting better and better," Kirilenko said. "I can move a little bit. It feels pretty strong it's just swollen still. I don't think I'll be able to jump yet, run yet, but walking, dribble, it's fine. It will probably take three or four more days."
Kirilenko said when the Jazz's season resumes after the All-Star Game, he probably needs to pick his spots a little better in order to avoid injuries.
"I have to be very careful," he said. "I guess when you're playing well you get excited and you try to challenge every play and it's overworked a little bit so I have to be very careful. But it's a part of the game so you can't do anything about it."
Coach Tyrone Corbin misses Kirilenko's versatility in his lineup. Not many players in the NBA can compete at four positions.
"He had a great first half for us in Salt Lake against Phoenix," Corbin said. "He got hurt and we kind of lost our energy from there. Hopefully he'll heal up with the days off and be ready to go the second half of the season."
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Jazz's recent slide, in which they had lost 11 of 15 before Tuesday, has hurt their playoff positioning — and possibly even their ability to reach the postseason. Entering Tuesday's contests, five games separated the fifth-place team (New Orleans) and the 10th-place team (Phoenix) in the West. Houston and Golden State, the 11th and 12th place teams respectively, in the Western Conference, aren't that far behind either.
That leaves eight teams in close contention for four playoff spots. Utah was tied with Portland for sixth place in the West prior to Tuesday's game, and only 1 1 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Memphis.
Playoff positioning will be hotly contested and fun to follow in the West after the All-Star break, and the Jazz are looking forward to that — and not where they were or what could have been.
"We understand there's a sense of urgency there," Corbin said. "We've lost some games and we kind of fallen back to the pack a little bit, but we're still the same team that won a lot of games early, and we just got to get back on the same page and get our heads focused on winning games and then playing from there."
GENTRY CAN RELATE: Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry has been in a somewhat similar position as Corbin. He became the Suns' coach during the 2008-09 season, replacing Terry Porter a few months into the campaign. Porter had replaced Mike D'Antoni, who left the Suns for the Knicks following the 2007-08 season.
Gentry was an assistant under D'Antoni in Phoenix and stayed with the Suns as an assistant for Porter. He continues to run a system similar to D'Antoni's and expects Corbin to do the same with Sloan's schemes.
"It's like me taking over here with Mike," Gentry said. "It's been very, very successful what's been done there so I don't know why you would all the sudden come in and change everything that was going on."
Gentry believes Corbin has what it takes to carry on Sloan's winning tradition.
"I think he's a very capable guy," Gentry said.
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