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Andrei antsy, reasonable about return

On one hand, Andrei Kirilenko has missed six games with a sprained right ankle.

Enough already, he figures.

On the other hand, missing one more game — tonight's vs. Golden State — would mean four more days worth of rest, since the Jazz's next outing after that is not until Tuesday vs. Indiana.

Tough call? Seems to be.

"I'm telling you — my will, I will play yesterday," Kirilenko said. "But I think it's very important to not force it, because I don't want to be re-injured, like you see Carlos (Boozer, out long-term after aggravating a strained hamstring)."

Jazz trainer Gary Briggs suggested Thursday that in an ideal world Kirilenko would wait until Tuesday, but that if the usual starting small forward's ankle responds well today to Thursday's evening practice he could be cleared to return tonight.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has similar mixed feelings, but leans toward playing Kirilenko right away if he can go.

"I won't worry about that until probably close to game time," Sloan said prior to practice Thursday. "I won't play 40 minutes if I do play him.

"I can't worry about the (four) days," Sloan added. "I would, maybe — but I have to do everything we can to win, and — if he's healthy and can help us win, I'll take a chance on trying to win, because they are so hard to come by."

Jazz point guard Keith McLeod, meanwhile, won't play tonight due to an avulsion fracture in his lower back that's also caused him to miss the last six games.

"Keith is still sore," Briggs said. "He's fine — until we start doing some kind of activity that pulls on it, and then the back tries to protect itself again."

Deron Williams will play despite what Briggs said is "a sore finger" sustained two games ago against Milwaukee.

Also set to play tonight is forward Matt Harpring, who missed Tuesday's win at Seattle because he remains under doctor's orders not to play on consecutive nights while his surgically repaired knee continues to heal.

CUBAN ON MILLER: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has checked in with his opinion on the show put on by Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, who left his Delta Center courtside seat to chew out his club between the third and fourth quarters of a recent game against the New York Knicks.

"I can relate to what Larry goes through," Cuban told the New York Daily News. "I listen, learn and encourage. It's frustrating as (expletive deleted) when things aren't going well. As a businessperson your inclination is to try to figure out how to fix things, and it's easy to get angry when there isn't a direct answer."

Miller has not sat in his usual courtside seat in the Jazz's two home games since he delivered his team tongue-lashing.

TICKET DISCOUNT: All high school and college students with a valid student ID can purchase $36 upper-bowl tickets to tonight's game for $14 at the Delta Center box office beginning at 9 this morning.

Students also are permitted to purchase tickets for family and friends at the discounted price.

DIOGU IN, PIETRUS OUT: Golden State rookie Ike Diogu, who had been out with a broken left hand, scored 11 points in 14 off-the-bench minutes while making his NBA debut in the Warriors' 113-89 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday.

Warriors swingman Mickael Pietrus, who did not play Wednesday, told the San Francisco Chronicle he will be out 2 to 6 weeks with a sprained right knee sustained last Monday.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com