Jazz backup small forward Matt Harpring missed his first game of the 2007-08 NBA regular season Saturday, sitting out a 118-94 win over the Memphis Grizzlies — the back end of a back-to-back set — because of inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee.

The Jazz already are calling Harpring "probable" for Monday night's game against Sacramento, so there doesn't appear to be any major concern.

Still, his absence did seem to be a bit disconcerting for Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

"Everybody knows we need him on our team," Sloan said of Harpring, a 10-season NBA veteran in his sixth season with the Jazz. "He's made a huge impact on our team the last few years."

Harpring missed training camp and the Jazz's seven preseason games because of the knee, which twice previously was repaired via microfracture surgery.

This past summer, he also underwent surgery to clean out scar tissue in the joint.

Harpring is averaging 7.7 points through Utah's first six games, but his playing time has been limited by doctor's orders. He logged 17 minutes at Seattle on Friday in the front end of the back-to-back, his longest stint of the season.

Harpring did play both games when Utah had a back-to-back earlier this season.

With Harpring out, C.J. Miles backed up starter Andrei Kirilenko.

HELPING HART: Jazz backup point guard Jason Hart, who went into Saturday's game having hit just two of 17 shots from the field, recently was on the receiving end of some encouraging words from Sloan.

"He's struggling a little bit, I think," the Jazz coach said. "I talked to him a couple of days ago and hopefully tried to get him to understand we expect him to play like Jason Hart.

"I don't expect him to play like Deron Williams," Sloan added. "Same thing we had here for a long time with John Stockton: Everybody who played behind him sometimes wanted ... to be reflective of him that way. (But) they have to play like who they are."

Sloan holds out hope for Hart, a six-season vet who was signed this past offseason to a two-year, $5 million contract as a free agent from the Los Angeles Clippers.

"He's worked hard. He's trying," Sloan said. "If he gets his confidence back, he'll be all right. If not, life goes on. We have to do something else."

Said Hart, who finished 2-for-4 from the field with two assists in nine minutes Saturday: "Coming off the bench, playing behind a great player, if you miss one, you have no time to correct it. You may not get another one.... I've been in this situation before, so, it's gonna get better."

DOWN ON THE FARM: As expected, the Jazz assigned 2007 second-round draft choice Kyrylo Fesenko to the Utah Flash in time for the start of their NBA Development League farm team's training camp Saturday.

"He was upbeat about it," said Sloan, who formally delivered the news to Fesenko during an early morning meeting Saturday. "I think he realizes he's got a lot of work to do, and hopefully that will work out.

"It basically boils down to what he wants, and how much he wants to work at it," Sloan added. "We can have all the aspirations and desires in the world, but it comes down to the player doing the work and making himself better."

The Jazz aren't committing to a specific length of time for the Ukrainian center's first trip to the minors, but Sloan suggested it may be long term.

"I would think," the Jazz coach said. "I don't know how he'll progress. You just have to take a look at it and see. We'll be trying to stay in touch with what's going on down there, because we have a vested interest, obviously."

MISC.: After Wednesday's late-finishing, ESPN-televised game against Cleveland and before Thursday's morning practice, Sloan snuck in time for a root canal. ... Hart's Cadillac Escalade was struck by a delivery truck, knocking off its bumper, while parked in the EnergySolutions Arena lot during a morning shootaround last Wednesday. Hart feared what sort of rental car he might get, but it turns out he was happy to land another black Escalade. ... Kirilenko's 11 assists against Seattle on Friday marked the first time he's reached double digits in that stat category since Jan. 17, 2006.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com