DENVER — Jazz starting center Mehmet Okur soon must undergo surgery to repair an Achilles tendon that ruptured Saturday night.
Okur sustained the devastating injury, which could sideline him even for the start of next season, driving to the basket in the second quarter of the Utah's Game 1 first-round NBA playoff series loss at Denver.
"I am very disappointed for my team and the fans," Okur said on his personal website. "For two years now the season has ended with injuries for me, and I don't think that this is something I deserve."
The Achilles had been giving Okur trouble for about two weeks — the Jazz called the injury "Achilles tendinitis" — and Okur received a local-anesthetic injection prior to Saturday's game.
On Sunday, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor defended that decision.
"We would never have put a player in a compromising position," he said. "If there was any indication that the shot would have masked anything or done anything like that, we would have never done that.
"We'd never put a game ahead of a player's health. … That's not our DNA.
"To repeat and reiterate, I think it's important to know that we would not in any way, shape or form risk further injury, or a injury to a player for a game," O'Connor said. "That was certainly his call and, again, our doctors felt that … there wasn't any additional risk in doing that."
The existing injury, though, clearly was impacting Okur's play prior to the tear.
"He wasn't running like he did the rest of the season," O'Connor said, "but he tried to play, and, you know, we appreciate that fact, certainly."
Surgery will keep Okur off the court for at least three months, O'Connor said, and it could be "4-to-6 months" before he's able play again.
It remains to be seen where, when and by whom the operation will be performed — and, at six months, it's perhaps possible Okur can return for the start of next season.
Returning from Achilles surgery, however, sometimes takes much longer.
"I just know that he (Okur) is out for the rest of the playoffs," O'Connor said. "I think the surgery will sort of dictate his rehab period. But the soonest we can expect him back is next season.
"The biggest consideration is for him to get total healthy," O'Connor added. "I mean, it used to be a career-ending injury. Now guys come back from it. Some guys have come back and played extremely well; other guys haven't. So we'll just have to wait and see."
The Jazz center also is expected to miss playing for his native Turkey when that country hosts the FIBA World Championships beginning Aug. 28, an event in which Okur — a widely popular figure in his homeland who is married to a former Miss Turkey — very much looked forward to taking part.
The 30-year-old Okur returned to Salt Lake City on Sunday.
"We worked hard, we sacrificed and to have my season end like this its not fair," Okur said. "I feel bad really bad right now. We proved this season that when we are healthy we can beat anybody. You can say that injuries are a part of the game, but I can't digest that right now."
Okur really was crushed by the setback.
"I feel bad for him," power forward Carlos Boozer said.
"He was down. You could see it in his eyes. You know, he just wants to be out there on the court. … It's just a tough situation for him,"
Deron Williams added, "He was playing injured the past couple weeks. He's a competitor. He wants to be out there to help his team win, and almost did too much, you know?"
Okur was hurt on a drive to the basket, and said afterward that he felt "a pop."
"He slipped on the one leg," O'Connor said, "and then all the torque came down on the other leg and caught him in a perfect storm."
Teammates immediately knew something was decidedly wrong — and sensed right away how much of a loss had been sustained.
"When he went out in that first half we all knew it was something serious and we would miss him. … It's tough without him," Boozer said.
"He's a big presence for us. He hits 3s, spreads the defense out for us, does a good job helping us rebound on the boards."35 comments on this story
Okur averaged 13.5 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range during the regular season.
"Memo's a big part of our team," Williams said. "He stretches the defense. He's a guy you really can't replace, just because his inside-outside game really is unmatched."
The Jazz, though, must play on anyway.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is tonight at the Pepsi Center.
"When somebody gets hurt," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "it's kind of a sick feeling.
"But you've got to get over that, from our standpoint, and get ready to play basketball."