SALT LAKE CITY — Andrei Kirilenko couldn't keep from smiling while he talked about his injury situation before Saturday night's game.
Obviously, there's nothing particularly funny about an ankle sprain that's now kept him out of the past three games.
But Kirilenko can't wait to get back onto the court, and his giddiness reflected his belief that that is about to happen soon.
As in Monday at Sacramento.
Not that anybody was counting, but Kirilenko used the word "excited" three times in 49 seconds while talking about his hopes of returning against the Kings.
The Jazz's usual starting small forward is no longer wearing a walking boot, and he took his ankle for a test run Saturday.
He wasn't quite healed enough to play against OKC, but his improvement got his hopes up.
Kirilenko just needs his hops to get back up, too.
"Jumping (is) not there yet. It feels like a little slow, like I can't really get explosive," Kirilenko said. "But I'm feeling good — moving, running. I'm pretty excited."
Kirilenko, who's missed five games this year with ankle and back injuries, is cautiously making sure he's ready to return, though.
"I don't want to be overexcited, because it leads to other injuries," said Kirilenko, perhaps with injury-plagued teammate Mehmet Okur's situation in mind. "So you have to be very careful."
The Jazz aren't holding an official team practice today before leaving for Sacramento, but Kirilenko said he's holding his own to test his foot.
"I'm going to practice anyway," he said. "I feel like it should be great. I'm excited."
Rookie Gordon Hawyard started his third straight game in Kirilenko's place.
BIG FINE: The NBA announced Saturday that it had fined Nuggets guard J.R. Smith $25,000 for his flagrant penalty-two foul that he committed against Raja Bell in the Jazz's 113-106 win Friday night.
Bell was driving toward the basket in the fourth quarter when Smith put a Denver Broncos-worthy move on the Jazz guard, hammering him hard and sending him to the playing surface.
Smith was ejected for what Deron Williams later called a "cheap shot."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan didn't want to discuss whether or not he thought Smith's punishment was just or not.
"I don't get involved in that," Sloan said. "I'm just glad it wasn't me. I don't have to pay it."
Sloan then joked that he wouldn't have been taken down.
"I'd be going up the stairs," he said, "getting the (heck) out of there."
HE SAID IT: Sloan was also asked if he appreciated how Jazz players came to their Bell's defense and had their teammate's back.
"I wish," he said, "they would have it on every possession on defense."
NO MEMO: Jazz center Mehmet Okur missed his fifth consecutive game and 11th this season because of a strained lower back. He will not accompany the team to Sacramento.
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