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Something fishy in Detroit

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — He was acknowledged with polite applause by The Palace of Auburn Hills crowd and exchanged hugs with many who know him here.

Mehmet Okur even spent time with old teammate Darko Milicic on Saturday night, and it was something Okur had then for dinner — bad fish, apparently — that kept him from playing Sunday in Utah's 82-75 loss to his old Detroit club.

But there were no tears of joy, no mist in Okur's eyes upon his first return to the Palace since he and the Pistons celebrated their 2004 NBA-title win.

"I had a good two years with the Pistons," said Okur, who signed a six-year, $50 million free-agent contract with the Jazz this past summer. "Now, that's over.

"I'm with the Utah Jazz right now," Okur added. "I'm happy, and I'm going to try to do my best for the Jazz team. I don't care any more (about) the championship. It's over. It's all over."

Also over is the player-coach relationship between Okur and Detroit's Larry Brown, though Okur went out of his way Sunday to not say anything bad about Brown — despite the fact he spent so much of last season in the veteran coach's doghouse.

"Last year, especially at the beginning, we didn't understand each other well. Then we got better every day," Okur said. "I don't have problem with him. I think he's a good coach, and he likes to work hard. He's likes to win. That's Larry Brown."

Still, playing only sparingly as the Pistons plowed their way through the playoffs did prove somewhat problematic — just one reason (there were about 50 million others) Okur left Detroit.

"That's hard, because everybody wants to play in this league. Same thing (with) myself," he said. "So, if a player wants to play, and he's not playing — everybody's a little unhappy.

"I couldn't play. But it's all good," Okur added. "It was (Brown's) decision; I respect that. So, I'm looking ahead now."

Ahead, that is, to playing for Jazz coach Jerry Sloan — who has been hard on Okur already, saying he needs to improve his physical condition.

"(They are) similar," Okur said. "They like to work hard, they like to win and, first of all, they are good teachers."

And just what has Okur learned from Sloan so far?

"I have to get stronger every day," he said. "I don't know what happened — but I'm listening to what he says every time."

MOUTHY STUDENT: According to a note in Sunday's Detroit News, retired Jazz point guard John Stockton recently spent time working with young Seattle SuperSonics Luke Ridnour.

Reported the News: "Stockton taught Ridnour some of his dirty tricks, like the first time a big player tries to set a pick on him, take his knee and drive it into the other player's knee as hard as he can, then fall on the floor and act as if he is the one who was fouled. . . . For the rest of the game, Stockton told Ridnour, that big player will not want to set a pick the same way."

"That," Ridnour said, "is just little tricks that he has."

The master, suffice to say, probably won't be real thrilled with Ridnour's revelation.

MISC.: Free agent guard Jason Miskiri returned to the Jazz lineup after missing three straight games with a lower-back sprain. . . . One of Sunday's three referees was rookie Tommy Nunez, whose father recently retired after a lengthy career as an NBA ref. . . . All 15 players still on the Jazz roster traveled on to Philadelphia for Tuesday's preseason game against the 76ers.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com