Andrei Kirilenko's quicker-than-expected return to the Jazz lineup almost begs a question about his teammate: Just when will the team welcome back Carlos Boozer?
Thursday against the Boston Celtics?
Saturday versus the New Orleans Hornets?
Next week? Next month?
"That's the question," Boozer said when asked about his anticipated return date after the Jazz's shootaround Tuesday.
"It's getting better," he said of his surgically repaired left knee, "and hopefully it will continue to improve and I'll be back out there soon."
Though he didn't divulge his definition of "soon," Boozer continued his rehab Tuesday. The two-time All-Star forward says he is feeling "really good" and has been doing more basketball-related work, including light running and ballhandling along with hitting the cardio exercise equipment and the pool.
Boozer hasn't played in 42 straight games after getting injured during a game against Milwaukee on Nov. 19. He underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean out his knee on Jan. 9 at which time it was estimated he would be out at least four weeks.
Boozer says he isn't getting discouraged about his prolonged comeback.
"I'm still encouraged because I'm getting better," Boozer said. "For me, I'm just going to continue to be positive about it and continue to get ready for it. It's getting a lot better, so hopefully very soon."
Though some fans might be getting impatient, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said the team isn't pressing Boozer to hurry his return.
"It's not fair for me to set a timetable for the guy or any player," Sloan said. "I've never done that in my life, because it's like I'm trying to put pressure on him."
Sloan insists the long-term health of players is more important than rushing them back too soon.
"The player's more important than we are. That's the way we've always tried to approach it," Sloan said. "Whenever he's able to come back, fine. ... We hope he's back our next game, but there's not any guarantee that will happen."
HEAT OFF? So, what did Boozer think about his hometown team, Miami, dealing to get six-time All-Star big man Jermaine O'Neal last week in a trade that all but guarantees he won't be picked up by the Heat this offseason as rumored?
"They're trying to get better," said Boozer, who spent the All-Star break in the Florida hot spot.
Boozer said he isn't worried if the Heat's move will put to bed all rumors regarding him ending up playing permanently near South Beach.
"It doesn't affect me at all, actually," Boozer said. "I'm just trying to get back with my knee healthy, get back with my team and get back on the court. For me, that's all I'm thinking about."
HALL WORTHY: Sloan calls John Stockton's imminent inclusion in the Basketball Hall of Fame a "no-brainer." But the Class of 2009 finalist's players feel the same way about their coach, even if Sloan balks when asked about his own Hall of Fame future.
"He's definitely going to be in the Hall of Fame. I don't think anybody would doubt that," Jazz guard Deron Williams said. "He's definitely deserving of it. Not much you can say because he probably doesn't want to hear it."
Andrei Kirilenko was surprised — not that Sloan was included among the finalists announced last week, but because the 21st-year Jazz coach isn't already enshrined.
"He's well-deserving," Kirilenko said. "I'm just wondering why it takes so long to figure it out."
HE SAID IT: Sloan when asked at shootaround Tuesday if his team looked refreshed from the All-Star break: "I don't know. Some of them look rested. Some of them look even more tired. They may have slept a lot on the road."
MISC.: Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of when Sloan's No. 4 player jersey was retired by the Chicago Bulls. ... They don't play the Jazz until Thursday, but the Boston Celtics arrived in town Tuesday. The defending NBA champions, who had three players at the All-Star Game in Phoenix this past weekend, practiced Tuesday at the Zions Bank Basketball Center and will go again today at the EnergySolutions Arena. Boston forward Glen Davis attended the Jazz-Grizzlies game. ... With Mehmet Okur missing Tuesday's game with the flu and Boozer still out, the Jazz have now lost 145 man games due to injuries, illnesses and personal reasons this season. Last year, they only lost 45 man-games.
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