Utah Jazz notebook: Team used to playing, winning shorthanded

Published: Sunday, Nov. 22 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Utah Jazz guard Deron Williams (8) drives to the basket while being guarded by Detroit's Charlie Villanueva (31) (right) and Ben Gordon (7). (Keith Johnson, Deseret News) Utah Jazz guard Deron Williams (8) drives to the basket while being guarded by Detroit's Charlie Villanueva (31) (right) and Ben Gordon (7). (Keith Johnson, Deseret News)

With usual starting center Mehmet Okur out again, the Jazz on Saturday night played a fifth straight game with just nine healthy players available — three shy of the maximum allowed, and just one more than the minimum required.

No big deal, Jazz point guard Deron Williams joked after Saturday's morning shootaround.

"That's our normal number this year," Williams cracked. "We're used to it."

Last season the Jazz lost 157 man-games to injury, illness and personal issues — and thought that was a lot.

This season they've already lost 51 in 13 outings — and are on pace for losing a whopping 322 man-games.

"We learned to deal with it last year, I think, with all the injuries we had (then)," Williams said. "So, it's kind of normal to us now. You know, it is what it is. You can't really do anything about injuries and sickness."

Except try to make the most of the circumstances.

"We've got three guys that are getting to play that maybe never would have gotten a chance to play if it hadn't been for all the injuries," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said Saturday.

"Hopefully," he added, "that will help them become better players and realize that hard work will make them better — and maybe some of the guys that are out will get back a little sooner. I don't know. Just roll with the punches."

Sloan was referencing backup center Kyrylo Fesenko, who with Okur out for Saturday's overtime win over his former Detroit Pistons club got a third straight start; rookie Eric Maynor, who's been backing up Williams at the point since combo guard Ronnie Price got hurt; and rookie Wesley Matthews, who with fellow swingmen Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles both still recovering from surgery has earned a regular spot at shooting guard in Utah's starting lineup.

Okur, a member of Detroit's 2004 NBA title team, has missed three straight games due to flu-like symptoms.

He was at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday morning but — still feeling ill — left before the Jazz's shootaround got underway.

According to the Jazz, Okur does not have the novel H1N1 influenza.

Maynor has been playing extensively since Price, who's missed five consecutive games, sprained his left big toe.

Price, Miles (thumb surgery, ruptured ligament) and Korver (arthroscopic knee surgery, bone spur) all hope to return sometime in the next couple weeks.

Without them, Sloan suggested, versatility has been key to a stretch in which Utah's won three straight and four of its last five.

"We've got guys that can play a couple different positions, whether it be the 3 (small forward) and 4 (power forward), the 2 (shooting guard), and 3, 2 and 1 (point guard)," he said. "That gives you a chance."

PROGRESS: Miles is rehabbing deliberately so he doesn't re-injure his thumb, but he's had a few intensive workouts over the past few days with assistant coach Tyrone Corbin.

"We just keep trying to do more and more, more intense, more stuff, just catching the ball, just trying to take a pounding to my hand," Miles said. "It's felt good so far … and I've been shooting the ball better and better as time's gone on."

Miles said full flexibility in his shooting hand has "almost" returned, and pain in the thumb is diminishing.

HE SAID IT: Williams, on ex-Pistons (among other teams) guard Allen Iverson still being unsigned since his exit last week from Memphis: "I'm surprised because he's such a great player, but I'm not surprised because of how he's going about things, you know? You can't demand to start on every team. That's not gonna happen. But that's how he feels."

HE SAID IT II: Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, on supposed interest in him from Detroit never materializing last offseason: "No worries about that at all."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company