SALT LAKE CITY — There is a chance — wishful thinking, perhaps, but a chance nonetheless — that Andrei Kirilenko can return to play late in the Jazz's ongoing NBA playoff series with the Denver Nuggets.
So says Kirilenko, who on Wednesday spoke publicly for the first time since re-straining the left calf that's kept him out most of the past 5 1/2 weeks.
The Jazz previously suggested Kirilenko could be back for second-round play should they beat the Nuggets and advance — their best-of-seven series is tied 1-1 — but Kirilenko suggested there's a slim possibility it could be sooner.
"I'm getting better," the Jazz's usual starting small forward said.
"I'm even trying to aim for, like, probably Game 6, 7," added Kirilenko, who missed 15 of the Jazz's final 17 regular-season games and Games 1 and 2 of the postseason series, turning backup C.J. Miles into Utah's chief defender on Denver All-Star Carmelo Anthony. "Again, it's probably highly unlikely. But, you know, it's a good goal to set up. But I think second round is probably, like, a good time."
Whether anything before the series ends is realistic remains to be seen.
"He really wants to play, and we'll put him through everything we put him through, and it's just going to depend on him," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said Wednesday. "It's a muscle injury, so there's not a definite timetable on it. But we hope he can come back."
On Monday, Kirilenko was in Los Angeles to have fluids drained from the calf and receive platelet-rich plasma therapy, a groundbreaking and increasingly popular but somewhat controversial procedure in which the patient's own blood is drawn and later re-introduced directly into the injured area.
More and more high-profile athletes reportedly have undergone the procedure, including NBA players Brandon Roy of Portland and Denver's Kenyon Martin, golfer Tiger Woods, and NFL players Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I really feel, like lighter, and I don't feel the sharp pain," Kirilenko said when asked how he's feeling since having the treatment. "I didn't work much, but so far I feel, like, very light and very relieved. We'll see (today) when I start to do something.
"I really feel different right now."
Kirilenko — who rushed home from L.A. in time to watch Monday's Game 2 on his own TV, which he said had him "screaming" at the end — will begin work on a stationary bike and an elliptical trainer and do flexion exercises today.
Getting re-injured during a 2-on-2 workout with teammates last Thursday, he suggested, only confirmed the notion he really wasn't ready to return.
An MRI exam revealed a muscle strain in a third different part of the same calf.
"It means I had something, you know, some problems," said Kirilenko, who believes a buildup of fluids, including blood, was causing much of his pain.
"I stepped on it, and got popped," Kirilenko added. "But (the) doctor said it probably popped not the muscle, but because of the fluids there."
Kirilenko hasn't played a complete game since logging 28 minutes in a March 10 win at Detroit, and isn't sure how much he can contribute whenever he actually is ready to return.
"It's always a tough question," he said. "But, you know, I'll try to make everything possible to get in shape as soon as I can run.
"Even, like, (six) days ago, you know, right before it happened in the practice, I was running full speed."