Jazz-Nuggets Notebook: Kyrylo Fesenko Gets Noticed
"You might pick up something,'' Fesenko said.
What Fesesko had to pick up after last Sunday's Game 4 was his jaw off the floor. Fesenko thought he had heard Denver star Carmelo Anthony mention his name.
"I saw it and I had to rewind it,'' Fesenko said. "I was like, 'Did he really say something about me.' Wow. That was kind of cool.''
Indeed, Anthony did speak of the obscure Ukrainian who has been called into starting duty with Mehmet Okur having been lost for the season in Game 1 with a ruptured Achilles. It wasn't exactly complimentary.
"Fesenko? Fesenko?'' Anthony said after Utah's 117-106 win that gave the Jazz a 3-1 series lead. "Don't get me wrong. He's playing extremely well. He's playing with a lot of confidence. But Fesenko?''
Fesenko has a good sense of humor, and he was able to mostly laugh about it.
"It was a little bit of both,'' Fesenko said of his emotions. "I was flattered but, I don't want to say mad. I bet he was saying, 'Fesenko. We don't even know who he is,' or 'Ukraine, where's that?'''
Those in Ukraine certainly have taken notice.
"We have a Russian version of Facebook,'' Fesenko said. "Oh my God, everybody has sent me a text, 'Did you hear what Carmelo said?' Yeah, I heard.''
Fesenko has played well enough in the series to get some attention without Anthony's help. Entering Wednesday's Game 5 at the Pepsi Center, he's averaging 5.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in the series, including 6.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in three games as a starter.
Fesenko will be a restricted free agent after the season. He didn't want to speculate on how his value might have improved, but said he wants to re-sign with the Jazz.
"Yeah, I do,'' he said.
Fesenko has kept his Utah teammates laughing now for three seasons. He joked Wednesday he's "pranked a lot of people that I'm a Chernobyl child, but it might be kind of true.''
Fesenko, whose hometown of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, is a five-hour drive from where the nuclear disaster occurred April 26, 1986, said there was enough time before he was born Dec. 24, 1986. Fesenko said he's glad the wind wasn't blowing then from Chernobyl to his hometown, and speculated what might have happened had it been.
"I'd have like three hands and four feet,'' he said. "But the NBA probably would make some rule against (him playing).''
BALKMAN LIKELY TO WORLDS: Nuggets forward Renaldo Balkman said he most likely will play for Puerto Rico in this summer's World Championships in Turkey.
Although Balkman is a native of Staten Island, N.Y., he's eligible to play for Puerto Rico since his grandmother was born there.
"I'm hopeful,'' said Balkman, who barely played this season but has a three-year, $5 million contract extension that kicks in next season. "It'd help me a lot going into next season. I need all the workouts I can and all the work I can get to come back here.''
Balkman said he "always knew'' he was eligible to play for Puerto Rico. He recently decided, though, he wanted to play and had the proper authorities contacted.
"I have some family members in Puerto Rico ... and we just got it done,'' Balkman said.
Balkman could join Denver teammates Anthony and Chauncey Billups both Team USA candidates, in the Worlds. But Nuggets center Johan Petro said Wednesday he's leaning toward not playing for his native France.
"I'm going to put my summer before nationals because of my contract situation,'' Petro said of becoming an unrestricted free agent. "I'd like to be in the NBA for more than one year (on a contract). Probably not going to go (to Turkey).''
Petro said his situation isn't ironclad that he won't play for France. But he said he's hoping to get a multi-year contract after playing this season under a one-year minimum deal. Petro said his preference is to return to the Nuggets on such a multi-year deal.
HARPRING BROADCASTING AND COACHING: Not that it's any surprise, but Matt Harpring said his NBA career definitely is over.
"I haven't officially retired, but I have no plans to play again,'' said Harpring, hampered by foot and ankle injuries that ruled him unfit to play in December while with the Jazz. He was traded later that month to Oklahoma City in a salary-cap related move.
Harpring said then he wasn't 100 percent sure he was done with the NBA. But he realizes now he's not going to play again after logging 11 seasons before this one.
"I guess every athlete has that hope he's going to wake up and feel like he's 28 and not feel like I've had 15 surgeries,'' said Harpring, who said that whenever he had designs about wanting to play again he went for a hard workout and then "found it hard to get up the next day and walk to the bathroom.''
Harpring has turned his attention lately to sitting in on Jazz television broadcasts to provide some analysis. He's done about 20 games this season, including during the playoffs. Harpring also has done some work with NBA TV, and wants to get involved long-term in broadcasting.
For now, Harpring also is like another Jazz assistant. Having once been adept at guarding Anthony, he's providing tips to Jazz players with that assignment, namely C.J. Miles and Wesley Matthews.
"He's just telling us to mix it up and being physical and not letting it be easy for him,'' Matthews said.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson