Mehmet Okur's Injury Has Jazz Worried
Jazz center Mehmet Okur slipped and hit the floor hard early in the second quarter Saturday night at the Pepsi Center in the Jazz's 126-113 loss to Denver in Game 1 of a West first-round series. Okur re-injured his left Achilles tendon, and will have an MRI on Sunday.
It was hard to find anybody on the Jazz who had much optimism about Okur being back any time soon. He could join forward Andrei Kirilenko, who Friday was ruled out for at least two weeks after aggravating his strained left calf Thursday, as the second Utah starter out for the series.
"It looks like it,'' said Utah forward C.J. Miles, when asked if it appears Okur will be out for a while.
Okur was not made available to the media after the game. However, he did release a statement.
"I was driving to the basket and I slipped,'' he said. "Then I felt pain because all my weight was on my left side because I was driving right. Then I felt something pop.''
Okur, who had sat out April 9 at New Orleans due to left Achilles tendinitis, saved the worst for last. That word "pop'' was not good for Okur, who had to be helped off the court and then to the locker room after he went down with 8:04 left in the first half.
"Extremely,'' said Utah guard Wesley Matthews when asked how worried he is. "But it's a business. We've got to keep moving on.''
Miles banged into Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups early in the third quarter and had to go to the locker room with nausea before returning in the fourth. He saw Okur while the center was in the locker room getting treatment.
"He just said to keep playing hard,'' Miles said. "(Okur was down) a little bit because it's been sore for a long time and bothering him, and now to have this happen is tough.''
Without Okur, who averaged 13.5 points and 7.1 rebounds during the regular season, Utah coach Jerry Sloan moved forward Carlos Boozer over from power forward to center to start the second half and inserted Millsap at power forward. Boozer said he's ready to continue to playing center if that's needed.
"When he went out that first half, we all knew it was something serious because he wouldn't miss it,'' Boozer said. "Hopefully, he will be all right. It is tough without him. He is a big presence for us, hits threes, spreads the defense out for us and he does a good job helping us rebound.''
Okur's loss would be magnified more because the Jazz also are without Kirilenko and Boozer played Saturday after having missed Wednesday's regular-season finale with a strained abdominal muscle. And the Jazz hardly are known for their depth in the post.
After the valuable Millsap, the team's backup big men include Kyrylo Fesenko, who averaged 2.6 points in 49 regular-season games, and Kosta Koufos, who averaged 1.5 in 36. It remains to be seen if Sloan, who didn't have much to say about Okur's injury, would have much confidence in using either or would simply look to go small.
"They are undermanned a little bit, but this is the NBA,'' said Denver acting coach Adrian Dantley. "Okur is hurt. Kirilenko is hurt, so you have to go out and win the first game. ... But the series is not over. ... (Sloan) is not going to let them just quit.''
At least Dantley's injury problems have gotten better. Forward Kenyon Martin, who missed 18 regular-season games with left knee tendinitis before playing the final three, looked good Saturday with 12 rebounds in 35 minutes.
"I felt great. I felt awesome, like a rock star,'' said Martin, who walked out of the Pepsi Center wearing sunglasses to indeed give him that image.
Meanwhile, Utah is just between a rock and a hard place.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @christomasson