Tom Smart, Deseret News
Andrei Kirilenko drives past Net's Richard Jefferson in 2006. Kirilenko will undergo surgery Friday morning to remove a bone fragment from his ailing right foot.

When they've been without one of their top five players this season, the Jazz are 18-9.

With two or more among Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap missing, however, they're 7-12.

That great disparity — .667 winning percentage vs. .368 — hits home particularly hard in light of the latest injury-front news for the 25-21 Jazz, which is that Kirilenko is scheduled to undergo surgery early this morning to remove a bone fragment from his ailing right ankle.

The sixth-man forward, an NBA All-Star in 2004 and the Russian Olympic Team's flag bearer last summer, already has missed four consecutive games and six overall since early December because of the injury.

"It's gonna be tough," point guard Williams said of the loss. "It's gonna be tough."

"A.K.'s such a huge part of this team," starting small forward Ronnie Brewer added with a reference to a teammate averaging 1.4 blocks, 1.6 steals, 3.1 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 12.7 points and 30 minutes per game this season. "He does so much on the offensive end and the defensive end. Not having him out there hurts us."

Dr. John Edwards, who incidentally is legendary former BYU football coach LaVell Edwards's son, will perform the surgery.

Kirilenko had hoped to delay it until the offseason, but opted otherwise after two cortisone injections in the last week and a half failed to alleviate his pain.

The Jazz didn't have a timetable for anticipated recovery, but Kirilenko — who got by for more than a month with the help of a successful steroid shot received in December — previously suggested such surgery would require rehab lasting three to four weeks.

That absence is yet another lengthy one for the Jazz, who haven't had one game this season in which their original anticipated opening lineup of Williams, shooting guard C.J. Miles, Brewer, Boozer at power forward and Okur at center has been available.

Moreover, Williams, two-time All-Star Boozer and 2007 All-Star Okur have yet to appear in the same game together this season.

Williams was sidelined by a sprained ankle for 13 games earlier this season, and Boozer will miss his 35th in a row when Oklahoma City visits tonight — accounting for 47 of the 116 man-games the Jazz already have lost to injury.

"It's been brutal for us," said Williams, who joined Boozer on Team USA's gold medal-winning Olympic club this past offseason. "It seems like every game it's somebody new, somebody different."

"It's tough, especially in the situation where we are right now," Brewer added with reference to Utah's four-game losing streak — including a defeat last Tuesday to San Antonio that dropped the Jazz to ninth among those vying for one of eight Western Conference postseason positions. "We're in must-win games just to make the playoffs. But we're a tough team. We've been fighting all season. Hopefully we continue to do that and find a way to win."

They have no other choice, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan suggested Thursday.

"We just have to go play. ... I mean, whoever we put on the floor, we're gonna have to do the same as we've tried to do since we started the season," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.

"We've got to do what we can to try to win," Sloan added, "and that means we need everybody to play well. That won't change, and hasn't changed."

What has to change if the Jazz are to make the playoffs, however, are their winning ways.

Utah has lost six of its last eight, and for now remains on the outside of the West's playoff picture.

"We've got to get on some kind of winning streak, and fast," Brewer said.

"We want to try to gain ground," Williams added. "We want to try to improve."

They also want to remain realistic, which for some means goal-alteration.

"Get (Kirilenko and Boozer) back around the same time ... and then we can try to make the playoffs," Williams said.

"I don't think we're shooting for first right now," he added. "We want to get in, any way it can come."

That's a far cry from the original expectations of many for the Jazz, who appeared in the 2007 Western Conference finals and had two playoff series last postseason.

Not that Sloan wants to hear any of that.

Sloan routinely warns against preseason predictions — "Expectations destroy a franchise," he said Thursday — and even now doesn't see any cause for excuses.

"If you come and play and put it all out there, I think you can win every game," Sloan said. "I've never had the thought we couldn't win."

But, he hastened to add, "I have to be realistic and fair. If we don't have everything go well for us, it's difficult for us to win. ... We need everybody to bust their can to have a chance."

And with that, Sloan — as he is often apt to do — waxed philosophical.

On one hand, he indeed sounded like someone resigned to the hand he's been dealt.

"You're not as good a coach when you have your best players out," Sloan said. "But everybody has to face that. I don't worry about that. We do the best job we can, and go home.

"People can criticize you or second-guess you all they want. They're gonna do that anyway," he added. "And if you can't handle that, you better not be in this business."

On the other hand, though, Sloan wasn't willing to concede anything to injuries.

The Jazz have endured an inordinate number already, yet still hover above .500. No reason they can't stay that way, he suggested.

"We could run around and say, 'Poor me.' But we have been in pretty good shape," Sloan said. "But then things, you know, just keep kind of coming at you. The important thing is to try to fight through that.

"Some of the most difficult times of your life will make you a stronger person. And these are, as far as basketball is concerned, difficult times.

"Now if that doesn't make you a stronger person," he added, "I've got to question whether or not you really like to win."

Jazz on the air

Thunder (11-35) at Jazz (25-21)

Tonight, 7 p.m.

EnergySolutions Arena

TV: FSN Utah

Radio: 1320 AM; 98.7 FM

Contributing: Jody Genessy