Jazz notebook: Injuries start to hit team

Los Angeles ? Following a week of two-a-day practices and the
conclusion of training camp,
Jazz coaches said the best thing
about Utah’s progress was the fact that no players had been
hurt.

That is not the case anymore.

The
Jazz sat out four players Sunday
against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Guard Deron
Williams (calf), forward Jeremy Evans (flu), and centers Mehmet
Okur (Achilles tendon) and Francisco Elson (hamstring) did not take
the court.

Okur and Williams were expected to be out of action, while Elson
was a game-time decision who was held back as a precautionary
measure.

“Since he’s been out a good period of time, I don’t think a
shootaround is adequate enough to see where he is,”
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “I’ll
have to see him practice, which we’ll do [Monday].”

Elson has yet to play a preseason game for Utah. He strained his
right hamstring Oct. 7 during a shootaround, prior to the
Jazz’s exhibition opener versus
Portland.

Meanwhile, Evans was a late scratch. The Utah rookie forward was
averaging 8.0 points , ranked third on the team in rebounds (5.4)
and was shooting a team-high 75 percent from the floor heading into
Sunday’s contest.

“He’s made a lot of good improvements since he came here. And I
think everybody on the team is pulling for him,” Sloan said. “He’s
a wonderful guy. No BS in him at all. He just comes and does his
job, and doesn’t change his personality a bit.”

But the normally upbeat Evans was slumped down in a chair near
his locker about an hour before tipoff. He spoke quietly, struggled
to answer questions and kept his hands over his stomach. Minutes
later, it was announced that the former Western Kentucky standout
was dealing with flu-like symptoms and would not receive a green
light.

“He [looked] like death warmed over in there,” Sloan said.

?

Good to go

While four
Jazz players sat out Sunday, center
Kyrylo Fesenko returned to action.

Fesenko had been dealing with a sprained right wrist he suffered
Thursday against Phoenix. He missed Utah’s win Saturday over the
Los Angeles Clippers due to the injury. But Fesenko said during a
Sunday morning shootaround he was encouraged by his progress, and
he was cleared for activity versus the Lakers.

“I feel good,” Fesenko said. “There’s no pain.”

Fesenko’s return bolstered Utah’s depth at the center position.
With Elson and Okur out, Fesenko and Al Jefferson are the
Jazz’s only healthy big men.

Different view

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson said the
Jazz could become a better team this
season than the 53-win squad from 2009-10.

Despite Utah’s loss of Carlos Boozer , Wesley Matthews and Kyle
Korver , Jackson sees potential in a
Jazz franchise that added
Jefferson, Raja Bell and Earl Watson during the offseason.

“They’ve helped themselves with some additional talent,” Jackson
said.

Jackson described Jefferson as a “scorer” who will likely be
backed up by a proven, talented veteran in Okur.

“They can play them 4 and 5 together, probably,” Jackson
said.

The Lakers coach also praised the play of
Jazz forward Paul Millsap , stating
that Utah’s projected starting power forward has performed very
well in a backup role the past two seasons.

?

bsmith@sltrib.com

Twitter: tribjazz

Check The Tribune’s
Jazz Notes blog at
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analysis. Alt Heads:

Injuries starting to hit once-healthy
Jazz Tuesday’s game

Jazz at Lakers, 8 p.m.