SALT LAKE CITY — There is no set timetable for his return to action, but Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur has received the green light from his back specialist to increase his basketball-related activity.
Having just finished a three-week period of rest, cardio and rehab for his lower back, Okur has been approved for limited on-court activity that will "continue on an as-tolerates progression," according to a team spokesman.
Before Wednesday morning's practice, Okur said Dr. Graham Hill told him he could begin jogging and shooting and gradually up his participation level at practice.
Okur is trying to temper his excitement.
"I don't want to get too excited. When I get too excited (last time), the things didn't go too well for me," Okur said. "I think I've been overdoing it because I got excited last couple of times, so this time I'm going to take my time, be smart and get back to 100 percent before I play."
The past 10-plus months have been a struggle for Okur.
First, he ruptured his left Achilles tendon in the playoffs last April. Then after undergoing surgery and enduring an eight-month rehab for that injury, Okur returned to action, only to sprain his right ankle two games into his comeback.
Shortly after that mishap, Okur retweaked his lower back, which has given him problems in the past. The 6-foot-11 big man returned after missing just over a week, but he strained the back again three weeks later.
That series of setbacks has kept Okur out of 48 of the Jazz's 61 games this season.
Okur, whose 3-point shooting is sorely needed by the 32-29 Jazz, won't play tonight and likely not Saturday, and the team isn't sure whether he'll travel for next week's four-game road trip in New York, Toronto, Minnesota and Chicago.
Okur said his back "feels good," but he admits he isn't sure how it will react to increased activity.
"I don't know how I'm going to feel after playing one-on-one or five-on-five, pushing, running, jumping all of that," Okur said. "But I want to make sure I'm 100 percent before I go out there and play."
The nine-year veteran was limited in his productivity when he did play this season, having averaged just 4.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 12.9 minutes in 13 games. Okur, a one-time All-Star (2007), has career averages of 13.7 points and 7.1 boards.
"He has been working his butt off trying to get back," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. "And we look forward to him coming back when he's ready."
NO CAPTAIN: The Jazz have yet to name a team captain to replace recently traded Deron Williams, who held that position for the past several seasons. Corbin said the captain position will continue to be rotated among different players.
D-LEAGUE BOUND?: Now that the Jazz have 13 healthy players — and a possible 14th coming when Okur returns — the team has to make one guy inactive every game because the NBA only allows 12 players to dress.
Rookie Jeremy Evans is usually the player who draws the short straw in those inactive situations. He's been made inactive eight times, including the past two games.
Evans said he hasn't been approached yet about being sent down to the D-League with the Utah Flash to get playing experience, but he isn't opposed to that situation.
"I wouldn't mind it, whatever they decide," he said. "They make the decisions and if I have to go I'll just play. ... I think going there it helps me work on my game. Here I'm on the bench obviously and not even dressing."
Either way, the hard-working Western Kentucky product said he'll "keep a good attitude."
Added Evans: "If I go there, just try to help them. I hear they're doing good."
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