Because it would take another month to get an appointment, Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko was granted permission by the Utah Jazz to go to San Francisco on Thursday to apply for visas for his family to visit France this summer.
Kirilenko was thought to be back in Salt Lake City by Thursday afternoon, said his agent, Marc Fleisher, and he is expected to play Friday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals at 8:30 against the Los Angeles Lakers in what is an elimination game for the Jazz.
"I don't see any reason why he wouldn't" play in the game at EnergySolutions Arena, said Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor, who saw no problems with Kirilenko's actions because he received permission from coach Jerry Sloan. "I don't know enough about it, but I know he did speak with Coach Sloan last night. I knew last night that he and his family had some visa issues."
O'Connor added, "I don't think it is" when asked if Kirilenko's absence for a personal reason was any kind of issue with the team."He had to do it last year, too," Fleisher said of Kirilenko having to apply for travel visas.
VACATION REDUX: Though Kirilenko was attending to vacation plans and missing practice Thursday, the situation did not seem to mirror what happened within the Jazz last year.
In 2007 following the team's playoff exit in Game 5 of the conference finals at San Antonio, still-emotional team leaders Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer both charged that some of their teammates had already made plans for vacations.
"There were some guys that were already on vacation, point blank," a frustrated Williams had said immediately after the game that ended the season. "On vacation a long time ago."
"It is sad to say that," Boozer said in the postgame press conference, "because (of) where we are. We are in the Western Conference finals, and we have guys that have vacation plans."
Now, the Jazz are at the brink of elimination from the conference semifinals.
Lose, and the Jazz are on vacation.
So are Boozer and Williams feeling their teammates are already on vacation this year?
"No, not one person," Boozer said emphatically at Thursday's practice, despite Kirilenko's absence. His vacation plans are for later in the summer.
"I hope not. You never know, but I hope not," said Williams.
For other Jazz players, that thought about time off for the summer was so far from their minds they had to be reminded of what was said last year.
"What do you mean?" said center Mehmet Okur. "I don't think so. It's not over yet."
Forward Matt Harpring was also surprised at being asked if anyone had vacation plans. "No. For us? No, why? Is that what you heard?" he said.
Told it was just a recycled thought from last year, Harpring said, "Oh, I hope not. I didn't see it really last year, either. I know there was a couple people last year made a comment like that, but I don'tknow if that was just frustration or people actually did. I don't really keep up with that kind of stuff."
GIMME THE BALL: When Boozer is on the floor and play is stopped and an official has the ball, the power forward seemingly has to handle the ball give it a little squeeze, turn it over in his hands nearly every time before the game can go on.
Referees just automatically hand the ball to him before players from either team shoot free throws or before play resumes, except on time-sensitive inbounds plays.
"Oh, it's become one of the habits I do since coming into the league," said Boozer. "Just want to touch the ball."
He showed a playful smile and winked and added, "As big guys, we don't get to touch the ball as much as the guards do, so when we get an opportunity to touch the ball, we want to touch it."
On defense, he has another motive. "Sometimes I'm hoping that it will jinx the other player to miss the free throw, but it doesn't work as often as I'd like in this postseason," Boozer said playfully.
It seems officials would have enough to think about without having to remember to give Boozer the ball after each free throw as he stands there waiting to try to rebound, but Boozer said it's easy to get them to give it to him.
"I'm polite. Very polite guy," he said.
He even got refs to hand him the ball when he was a kid "Oh, yeah. Yeah, I'm a nice guy, Boozer said, though he doesn't remember exactly when he started his ritual.
Sometimes other players may want to do the same thing. Matt Harpring often wants to touch the ball when he first comes into the game off the bench. Often he shoots a shot before time resumes. Sometimes players from other teams like to touch the ball, too.
"Sometimes, yeah," Boozer said, "and I wait for them to get the ball, and then it will be my turn after that."
I'm polite. Very polite guy.
Other guys Sometimes, yeah, and I wait for them to get the ball, and then it will be my turn after that.
Sometimes I'm hoping that it will jinx the other player to miss the free throw, but it doesn't work as often as I'd like in this postseason.
I've probably been doing that since I was a kid. Yeah, long time. I don't know how long but a long time.Kid get ref to hand over ball Oh, yeah. Yeah, I'm a nice guy.
FOUL OR NO FOUL? Some Utah Jazz fans still bristle about that infamous play in the NBA Finals 10 years ago. You know the one. Time's running out in Game 6, when Michael Jordan created separation from Bryon Russell with his arm was it a nudging or a shoving? and then nailed his now-legendary jumper to win the championship at the Delta Center.
On Wednesday night, the Jazz added another "Did he push off or not?" debate to the painful part of their playoff history.
The Jazz are still alive in the Western Conference semifinals, so Pau Gasol's key offensive rebound over Mehmet Okur won't prick fans' hearts as much as Jordan's play. But the question remains: Should the Lakers' 7-footer have been called for an offensive foul for pushing the Jazz's 6-11 center in the back or was it a legal, clean putback?
Gasol's play with 20.5 seconds remaining in Game 5 at the Staples Center all but sealed the Lakers' 111-104 win that put them up 3-2 in this series.
Williams, who re-watched the game on the flight back to Salt Lake City, said Gasol definitely went over Okur. Then again, he added, there was "a little bit of a flop, too."
"He got pushed a little bit, but I don't know if it was that bad," Williams said.
Boozer, who said he probably should have gone to the free-throw line more than he did, didn't make a big deal out of it, either.
"Yeah, definitely," Boozer said at practice when asked if Gasol pushed Okur. "But it's part of the game."Had Okur grabbed the board, Utah, which trailed by three at the time, would have had a chance to tie the game in the final 20 seconds.
COACHING CAROUSEL: According to multiple reports, the Chicago Bulls have requested permission from the Jazz to speak with assistant coach and DePaul University product Tyrone Corbin about their vacant head coaching position.Corbin also is on a long list of candidates for the vacant head coaching job in Phoenix, as is ex-Jazz guard Mark Jackson, who reportedly is scheduled to meet with Suns officials sometime in the next few days, and Jazz special assistant coach Jeff Hornacek.
RESERVE RIVALRY: Kyle Korver was reluctant to talk about his run-in Wednesday with Laker backup guard Sasha Vujacic, who eventually got called for a technical for jawing at the Jazz guard. Korver did chime in on Vujacic's tendency to get after the referees, though."He thinks he's getting wronged all the time on the floor and I don't understand it, but whatever," Korver said. "I don't feel like I'm playing him any more physical than anyone normally plays anybody. He just feels like he's getting the raw end of the deal a lot, which is ridiculous."
Contributing: Jody Genessy, Tim Buckley