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Andrei, Fesenko hitting it off

With no language barrier, they are becoming friends

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Two weeks ago, Andrei Kirilenko and Kyrylo Fesenko hadn't even met.

Now, however, the veteran forward from Russia and the rookie center from Ukraine have become not just Jazz teammates but fast friends.

Coach Jerry Sloan thinks he knows why — and it's not only because each has a similarly engaging personality.

Rather, it's the fact both speak Russian.

"You run into a guy that can talk to you, you end up having a friend," said Sloan, who calls Illinois home. "Everybody in southern Illinois, we all understand each other."

Kirilenko, for his part, expects the friendship to last.

"Why not?" he asked. "Well, if he is annoying, though, I will kick his butt."

Fesenko and Kirilenko, incidentally, shared a sushi dinner last Monday night. Fesenko showed up sick for practice on Tuesday morning with an apparent case of food poisoning, but Kirilenko did not.

"I have steel in," Kirilenko said, pointing to his stomach.

Fesenko played 16 minutes in the Jazz's 90-81 preseason-opening loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday night, and afterward said he was feeling better.

OKUR HAS TOE INJURY: According to his Web site, Jazz All-Star center Mehmet Okur is nursing a cartilage-related toe injury.

"I guess it happened from pushing it (too) hard. I was told that it is an injury that usually happens to dancers from over-practicing,"

Okur is quoted on the site, "They took (an MRI) and said it happened during the summer. It is something that has to be watched, but it will not keep me from practicing and playing."

The Jazz, who visit Detroit tonight for the start of a three-games-in-four-nights road trip that ends Monday at Phoenix, had not previously disclosed the injury.

Okur, who won an NBA title ring with the Pistons in 2004, played 19 minutes and scored seven points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field Wednesday.

HE SAID IT: Fesenko, after Wednesday's exhibition opener: "Now I need to make a lot of calls to Ukraine to say, 'Ahhh, I got my first game."'

HE SAID IT II: Sloan, whose Jazz play four of their next five preseason games on the road: "I'd rather play them all at home."

HE SAID IT III: Fesenko, asked what he thought of his play Wednesday during a live postgame interview with a television reporter: "It is difficult to say something about yourself. I want you to say something."

ALUMNI UPDATE: According to Pacers beat writer Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star, ex-Jazz guard Andre Owens "is going to push (Travis) Diener for the backup point guard spot" in Indiana.

Owens played 23 games for Utah an NBA rookie during the 2005-06 season, which was shortened by surgery to insert a rod into his stress-fractured leg.

MISC.: Jazz backup small forward Matt Harpring won't play tonight and probably won't play Saturday night at Milwaukee either. Harpring is rehabbing from two offseason operations, one to clean out scar tissue from his knee, surgically repaired twice before, and another to address bone spurs in an ankle. He accompanied the team to Detroit and remains out until further notice but hopes to be ready for the Oct. 30 start of the regular season ... Free-agent hopeful Donnell Harvey, who did not dress Wednesday due to a case of intestinal flu, made the trip Thursday, as did the other two free agents brought to camp by the Jazz, Kevin Lyde and Damone Brown ... Shooting guard C.J. Miles, who sprained an ankle in practice Tuesday and played just four scoreless minutes (0-for-2 from the field) Wednesday, also traveled ... Power forward Carlos Boozer, absent while tending to an ill son in Miami, did not fly with the club to Detroit but could join the Jazz sometime on their current trip.

Contributing: Linda Hamilton