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Utah Jazz: Fesenko disappointing in start

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The Milwaukee Bucks' Andrew Bogut, left, of Australia, loses the ball as he tries to drive past the Utah Jazz's Kyrylo Fesenko, of Ukraine, during the first half of an NBA game Tuesday in Milwaukee. The Bucks beat the Jazz 94-86.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ Andrew Bogut, left, of Australia, loses the ball as he tries to drive past the Utah Jazz’s Kyrylo Fesenko, of Ukraine, during the first half of an NBA game Tuesday in Milwaukee. The Bucks beat the Jazz 94-86.

Morry Gash, Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — The Jazz lost at Milwaukee on Tuesday without not only still-injured power forward Carlos Boozer but also starting center Mehmet Okur, whose lower back locked up following morning shootaround.

Starting in Okur's place was rarely used big man Kyrylo Fesenko, who has appeared in just seven games this season and hadn't played in the Jazz's previous 11 games.

Fesenko — who turns 22 years old today — hadn't played since Nov. 29 vs. New Jersey.

But Jazz coach Jerry Sloan opted to go with the big Ukrainian rather than rookie Kosta Koufos or a smaller lineup because of the presence of Milwaukee's starting center, 7-foot, 260-pound University of Utah product Andrew Bogut.

"We don't have much size if we go the other way," Sloan said before Bogut's 11-rebound, nine-point night.

Asked before hand what sort of shape Fesenko is in, Sloan said, "We'll find out."

He didn't like what he learned.

"I didn't think he was ready to play," Sloan said after Fesenko collected two quick fouls and was benched after logging fewer than four minutes. "I mean, I tell guys — and it sounds kind of weak when you say it, but — when the time comes, you want that opportunity to step out there and compete. And if you aren't in shape to do it...

"You know, we've got every machine in the world," Sloan added. "And there's miles and miles of hard road, if you want to use that, to get yourself in shape."

Sloan replaced Fesenko in Utah's second-half opening lineup with Koufos, even though the 19-year-old shot just 1-for-5 in the first half.

"He (Koufos) has got to concentrate on what we're doing," Sloan said. "You know, you can keep talking about it, but when you make the same mistake over and over again, you're not concentrating on what you have to do. You're concentrating on trying to score, instead of executing our offense."

Fesenko found out he'd be starting less than an hour-and-a-half before Tuesday's game.

"I saw that Memo wasn't going (in pre-game warmups) ... but I was thinking he'd be okay," Fesenko said beforehand. "What's wrong with him?"

It wasn't the first time Okur's been sidelined by back spasms this season.

He's been bothered by his back since before the season started — it actually hurts every day, he said — and he also missed a Nov. 17 game against Phoenix because it tightened up on a long flight after visiting his ailing father in Turkey.

"I started to feel it after (Saturday's) Chicago game a little bit," Okur said, "but I thought it wasn't a big deal. After shootaround it was worse. I can't tell you exactly what happened, but right now ... I can't run 100 percent."

"Hopefully," he added, "I'm gonna be fine ... I'm gonna get treatment, and I'll be ready to go next game."

Having ended a five-game trip, the Jazz are off until Friday, when they host Dallas at EnergySolutions Arena.

FIELD TRIP: Rather than fly from Chicago to Milwaukee, as they've done previously, the Jazz on Monday made the 90-mile trip between cities by bus.

Team members even had boxed lunches for the short ride, with choices including turkey sandwich or fajita wrap.

HE SAID IT: Sloan, on power forward Paul Millsap returning after halftime Tuesday following a scary-looking knee injury: "If you like to play, you like to play. You get up and play."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com