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Boozer: ‘I’ll be back’

Jazz’s leading scorer optimistic about return in 4-5 weeks

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Even after his third major injury setback in as many seasons, Carlos Boozer seeks out the bright side.

"I'll be out for about four or five weeks," Boozer said after the Jazz revealed Tuesday that their leading scorer and rebounder has a small hairline fracture on the fibula bone head leading into his left knee.

"The good news is it's not as bad as it could have been, so I'm excited about that. Depending on how it heals I could be back sooner."

In fact, Boozer — who also pointed out that the Jazz's schedule is rather light over the next several weeks, with just two more games in the next nine days, only five before the NBA all-star break and 10 in all of February — did not rule out playing in the Feb. 18 all-star game should he be named a Western Conference reserve when selections are announced tonight.

"I'm not gonna say, 'No.' I'm not gonna say, 'Yeah,"' he said, even though that's only a three-week window. "I'm just gonna say, 'Possibly.'

"It's not as painful as it may sound," Boozer added. "It's sore and throbs a little bit here and there, but not too bad."

Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor appreciated the optimism, even if it may seem somewhat unrealistic.

"You'd rather have a player say, 'I'd rather play sooner than later,"' he said. "It just depends on when he can tolerate pain, (and) if there's no permanent damage if he plays on it sooner than later with pain."

In any event, the Jazz — who originally thought Boozer's knee was merely bruised, based on initial X-rays taken Saturday in Oklahoma City after he was hurt bumping into Hornets center Tyson Chandler — are planning on a lengthy spell without their starting power forward.

"Now," O'Connor said, "you get in a situation where you go, 'Holy good grief, now what do you do?' a little bit as far as the coaching end of it goes.

"It's obviously a situation we're upset about," he added. "But injuries happen.... We'll just deal with it. Some of the other guys have got to step up a little bit more."

With Boozer missing his second straight game when the Jazz faced San Antonio on Wednesday, Jarron Collins made a second straight start at center, usual starting center Mehmet Okur opened at power forward again, rookie backup Paul Millsap played extra minutes, and even seldom-used former BYU center Rafael Araujo contributed.

"Unfortunately we've been here before," said Boozer, who missed 49 games last season with a hamstring injury and 31 two seasons ago with a foot injury. "So they know what to do."

Still, Jazz players seemed frustrated by the news.

"We're gonna miss him," Okur said. "He's been doing great for us — having an all-star year."

"He's a big part of our team, and a big part of our success, so him going down like that — we're gonna miss him a lot," Millsap added. "But, on the other side, we've got a team that fights."

If nothing else, the Jazz — who failed to make the playoffs or even post an above-.500 record the past two years — must now fight the perception they cannot win without Boozer.

"We've got to keep on going," point guard Deron Williams said. "Boozer definitely is a huge loss for our team. He's a big part of our offense, a big part of our team.

"Everybody's got to step up," he added. "I'm gonna be more aggressive offensively, and I think Memo (Okur) definitely has to be more aggressive. Paul (Millsap) is gonna come in and provide some energy ... (but) it's not just one guy that you can point to. It has to be a total team effort."

Jazz owner Larry H. Miller concurred. "The thing I try to look at ... is we're gonna be able to see what we've got more with three or four of our other players, because it's not just gonna affect the big guys.

"It's gonna trickle down."

Beyond that, O'Connor said the team will look to make an acquisition to fill the void. He, however, doesn't anticipate anything happening before Monday. One possibility: Signing someone to a 10-day contract who can pick up Millsap's reserve-power-forward minutes.

Boozer, meanwhile, expressed both surprise and disappointment over the fracture.

"That comes with any injury, I'm sure," he said, adding he has a return target date in mind — but he wouldn't disclose it. "If it's a little more than you think it is, I'm sure everybody is a little disappointed, or a little shocked, to say the least."

Additional MRI testing after Saturday revealed the fracture.

The Jazz announced results of the finding only after Boozer sought a second opinion to confirm Jazz physician Dr. Lyle Mason's initial diagnosis. According to a statement from the Jazz, "Injuries of this nature typically take four to five weeks to fully heal."

Said Miller: "It shouldn't be a nagging thing with possibilities to repeat like the hamstring was."

Boozer hopes so, too — especially if he receives actual good news tonight.

"I'm gonna say flat-out (being named an all-star) would the culmination of me being here," he said. "It would (quiet) a lot of critics, here and elsewhere."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com