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Utah Jazz draftee Ante Tomic making name for himself overseas

SALT LAKE CITY — He is 7-foot-2.

He is playing to rave reviews in Europe.

He is Jazz NBA property, and he's being compared to Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol.

But if you think Ante Tomic can fill in for Mehmet Okur should the Jazz's starting center miss the start of next season, think again.

Earlier this year, Tomic — a second-round Jazz draft choice in 2008, No. 44 overall — signed a 3 1/2-year contract with Real Madrid of the Spanish ACB League.

According to multiple NBA sources, the deal does not include an NBA buyout clause prior to the 2010-11 NBA season — meaning the earliest Tomic can get out of the contract and join the Jazz would be in the summer of 2011, if both sides were so inclined.

So so much for the notion of Tomic stepping in for Okur, who on Tuesday underwent surgery to repair the Achilles tendon he ruptured in last Saturday's Game 1 of Utah's first-round NBA playoff series with Denver.

It's possible Okur will miss the start of next season, leaving a void at the center spot where he usually starts.

The Jazz do have an apparent prospect-in-the-making, though, in 23-year-old Tomic, a Croatian who in January jumped from KK Zagreb of the Adriatic League to Real Madrid.

Tomic — who'll also play for Croatia at the upcoming FIBA World Championships in Turkey — averaged 11 points in his first 11 ACB games, and scored 22 in a recent Euroleague playoff win over Barcelona.

According to a FIBA.com report this week, "Tomic has been so prolific since his arrival ... he's been likened in Spain to their national team star, 2006 FIBA World Championship MVP Pau Gasol" — but it's "not a comparison he welcomes."

"I don't like that because he is a great player, probably the best in Europe," Tomic said of Gasol, according to the website. "I only hope that one day they can compare me to him, but not yet."

The move to Spain, Tomic added, has been "hard because this is the first time I have left home and my country."

Croatia and Team USA open FIBA-world play in the same preliminary-round group.

KIRILENKO UPDATE: Injured Jazz small forward Andrei Kirilenko got up a few shots during shootaround Friday, and still is aiming at a possible return next Friday should there be a Game 6 in the Jazz-Nuggets series.

But he's still not running yet, and isn't ready to dub the wishful thinking any more than "a good goal."

"I'm excited, but (trainer) Gary (Briggs) stopped me and was like, 'Hey, remember the history, so just be careful," said Kirilenko, who, after re-straining his left calf multiple times, has missed 18 of the Jazz's last 20 regular-season and postseason games.

Kirilenko underwent platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy last Monday in Los Angeles, and suggested Friday that he continues to feel better post-treatment.

"I feel, like, relieved," he said. "My calf feels, like, soft. My step is getting better. I was a little bit afraid to step hard, but still the pain has gone."

Pain-free too, Kirilenko suggested, was the treatment process itself, one in which parts of his own blood were re-introduced directly into the injured area.

"I didn't feel anything, actually," he said.

"(The doctor) said, 'There's going to be a little pinch right now,' so you feel the needle goes in," Kirilenko added. "And then, like, 'OK, I've started draining blood,' and I'm like, 'Really?' I was waiting for the pain, and then he's like, 'I'm done.' 'Really? Where's the pain?' "

IN DENVER: They called him a "gametime decision" because of his sore knee, but the Nuggets seemed to know all along that power forward Kenyon Martin, who sat out practice Thursday to rest, would play Friday. Martin also recently underwent PRP therapy.

Meanwhile, Denver head coach George Karl, battling throat and neck cancer, paid a surprise visit to Nuggets practice before the team left for Utah on Thursday.

CHARITY WORK: Jazz point guard Deron Williams' charitable foundation this week launched a new website, www.pointofhopefoundation.org. His fourth annual Deron Williams Celebrity Golf Classic will be held July 10 at Thanksgiving Point.

GAME 5 ON BIG SCREEN

The Jazz will show Wednesday night's Game 5 of their playoff series with the Denver Nuggets on the big screen in HD at Megaplex 17 in Jordan Commons, Megaplex 13 in The Junction, Megaplex 12 in The Gateway and Megaplex 20 in The District.

Admission is free and open to the public.

The Jordan Commons showing also features special promotions and giveaways, including Jazz mascot and dancers appearances.

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com