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Humphries gets nod vs. Sonics

SEATTLE — The Jazz played Tuesday for a fourth time this season without forward Matt Harpring, who because of offseason knee surgery remains under doctor's orders not to play on consecutive nights.

With Harpring out and usual starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko still nursing a sprained right ankle, second-year forward Kris Humphries got his first start of the season and the fifth of his short NBA career.

The decision to start Humphries in Seattle, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, was made in part because Devin Brown, who started one other time at the 3 when both Kirilenko and Harpring were out, has "been playing real well" off the bench.

It probably didn't hurt either that Humphries, who recently caught flak from Sloan for his frequent shooting, was coming off a 10-rebound game in Utah's Monday-night win over Milwaukee.

Harpring, the Jazz said Tuesday, will continue to be held out of the second half of back-to-back sets until sometime after consulting with his surgeon in "a few weeks." That means he probably won't play Dec. 5 vs. Minnesota, but perhaps could go both Dec. 16 at Indiana and Dec. 17 at Milwaukee.

On the other hand, Sloan said Tuesday, the Jazz might wind up going all season with Harpring not playing in both outings of back-to-backs.

When he does play, Harpring still is limited to four stretches of no more than seven minutes in length apiece.

"It's kind of tough sometimes," Sloan said, "but that's the way it is."

Kirilenko, meanwhile, remains out on the same timetable set recently by Jazz orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Mason. That means he theoretically could return as soon as Friday vs. Golden State, but could also be sidelined through Dec. 8.

Kirilenko, still wearing an aircast, traveled to Seattle for the Jazz's game against the Sonics. So did Harpring and point guard Keith McLeod, who remains out until sometime next week at the earliest with an avulsion fracture in his lower back.

Absent again Tuesday was forward Carlos Boozer, whom team officials said was still in Los Angeles to visit with a specialist concerning the strained left hamstring that has him out until at least sometime in the latter half of December.

INTEREST IN WALSH? Basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor had no comment Tuesday when asked about a newspaper report suggesting the Jazz are among a short list of teams that might pursue undrafted University of Florida shooting guard Matt Walsh, who was waived by the Miami Heat last Friday.

According to Tuesday's Miami Herald, "Walsh can sign with another team — the Seattle Sonics and Utah Jazz have expressed interest — or he can wait to see if the Heat re-sign him once the team frees a roster spot. The Heat are exploring trade possibilities that could leave a roster spot available for Walsh."

The Jazz did bring in Walsh for a pre-draft workout earlier this year, but they instead went with 18-year-old shooting guard C.J. Miles with the first of their two second-round choices.

If they did want to sign Walsh, the Jazz would have to first clear room on their currently full 15-man roster. Utah has two rookies whose contracts are not fully guaranteed, undrafted guard Andre Owens and big man Robert Whaley, a second-round selection.

If the Jazz were to make a move — O'Connor said recently there were no such plans — it probably would not happen until sometime next week at the earliest.

ALUMNI UPDATE: According to Tuesday's Orlando Sentinel, 2000 Jazz first-round draft choice DeShawn Stevenson of the Magic "injured his left knee in a physical practice Monday. Although it was initially diagnosed as a sprain, an MRI later revealed some loose cartilage that eventually will require surgery."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com