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Harpring's Fate Unknown Until December

Oct 29, 2009 – 1:30 AM
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Chris Tomasson

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Matt HarpringDENVER -- The Matt Harpring watch has been extended. But Utah officials aren't ready to give up on him.

In late September, just before the start of training camp, the team announced the status of the injured forward would be re-evaluated in six weeks. Now, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor says that, with Harpring not available any time soon, the plan is for medical officials to evaluate him and make a decision around mid-December.

"If not by mid-December, it would difficult for him to get back into any kind of shape for the season,'' O'Connor said Wednesday night in an interview with FanHouse before Utah's game at Denver.

So that pretty much has been established as the drop-dead date as to whether Harpring can return this season or might have to retire due to knee and ankle problems. O'Connor said Harpring is back in his hometown of Atlanta doing rehabilitation and won't return to Salt Lake City until "sometime in December.''

Harpring has had two microfracture surgeries on his right knee and has counted more than 10 surgeries on both ankles. In a September interview with FanHouse, Harpring said he wants to continue playing.

"It doesn't matter whether he wants to play. He's got to do it himself,'' said O'Connor, who said Harpring has to get to the point where joints "don't swell up on him.''

O'Connor said Harpring's knees and ankles are both significant concerns. He said caution must be taken because there is a risk of an injury that could affect Harpring after his career if he continues to play.

"It's not like a broken bone,'' said O'Connor, not wanting to elaborate on specifics about long-term possible risk.

O'Connor said Jazz officials would like to have Harpring back this season. But he said they have to be realistic, calling his return "up in the air.''

"We'd like to think (Harpring will play this season), but every time you look at it and you say..., 'We're a month into (the season) already,''' O'Connor said. "And it will be December before we check it out. But I don't want to pinpoint anything. He's got to be healthy.''

Harpring, making $6.5 million in the final year of his contract, has played 11 NBA seasons, the past seven with Utah. He's the team's second-longest tenured player after forward Andrei Kirilenko, entering his ninth Jazz season.

"Maybe if we make the playoffs, he'll be available,'' Kirilenko said of Harpring. "We all know he's a quality player. You want to always have a player like that on the team with his experience. He knows how to play the game. And he's a tough guy.''

It remains to be seen if Harpring's toughness will be enough to bounce back from this adversity.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at tomasson@fanhouse.com.
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