NEW ORLEANS — Al Jefferson sat on the side of a Houston gym before Thursday's practice and thought about somebody not in attendance.
On his mind: Paul Millsap.
Big Al's buddy and frontcourt partner in crime — victimizing opponents — was elsewhere getting his right wrist evaluated by a Houston doctor.
"Paul is the type of guy who tolerate pain," Jefferson said. "For him to be in pain and complaining the way he was, I know it's got to be up there. I'm just praying and hoping everything will be OK."
The diagnosis — a sprained wrist — leaves Millsap's status in question for Friday night's game against the Hornets.
Coach Tyrone Corbin said Millsap "fell funny" in the second half but managed to play through the hurt to finish off the Jazz's 103-91 win at Houston. But his pain intensified after adrenaline from the game wore off.
"He's not one that looks for a way out. He must really hurt," Corbin said. "We just hope it's something temporary."
Millsap finished Wednesday's game with 21 points, second behind Gordon Hayward's season-high 29. He also had seven rebounds. The durable forward, who possesses a high pain tolerance, has only missed 13 games in his entire six-year NBA career, including just one this season for a severely bruised heel.
"I know if he can play, he will play," Corbin added.
With Millsap absent, the Jazz didn't even have enough healthy bodies to run a full five-on-five scrimmage. Only nine players were able to participate in practice.
Utah was already down five players due to injuries, including Jeremy Evans (ankle), Earl Watson (upcoming knee surgery), C.J. Miles (calf), Josh Howard (knee) and Raja Bell (knee).
The injury bug apparently has developed a hankering for sinking its teeth in the Jazz roster.
"It's life, man. It's basketball," Jefferson said. "Especially this season here, you're going to have a lot of injuries, man. A lot of injuries. Sixty-six games in (122) days. They kind of think we are machines. You can't blame nobody. It just happened that way."
ELEVATOR OUT: Evans was sporting a walking boot on his sprained and swollen right ankle again Wednesday.
Evans injured himself Monday, missed Wednesday's game and is being listed as doubtful for this weekend's contests at New Orleans and Memphis.
The second-year forward said he feels like the ankle is getting better, though. But he admitted that the "biggest downfall" is the timing of this injury because of playing opportunities with others also out.
"That hurts," he said, "just to know that you're about to get the minutes and come out and sprain your ankle."
DEBUT DELAYED: The Jazz spent part of Thursday's practice running through offensive sets to help new guard BlakeAhearn become more familiar with the system and options.
Corbin wants to make sure Ahearn is more comfortable before putting him in a game during his 10-day contract.
"Timing's got to be right. Situations have to be right," Corbin said. "It's really not fair to him to throw him out there when the game's tight, guys pressuring him and he have to try to think his way through plays."
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