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Utah Jazz notebook: Mehmet Okur hopes to return for fall opener

SHARE Utah Jazz notebook: Mehmet Okur hopes to return for fall opener

SALT LAKE CITY — His own spirits on the rise, injured center Mehmet Okur met with teammates Saturday in hopes of lifting theirs.

"I'm glad to be here," Okur said while standing just outside the locker room of the Jazz, who were down 0-2 heading into Saturday night's Game 3 of their second-round playoff series with the Lakers. "I just wanted to come in and say, 'Good luck, you guys.' " Okur — seeing most of his teammates for the first time since rupturing his left Achilles tendon three weeks ago, in the first game of Utah's first-round series with Denver — was decidedly down shortly after sustaining the injury and in the days following surgery to repair it.

Now, though, the one-time NBA All-Star seems encouraged about returning in time for the start of next season.

"I might miss training camp and preseason, but hopefully first game," said Okur, who turns 31 later this month. "I'm hoping. ... It depends how everything goes. So far so good. No pain, no soreness.

"I just can't go back and think about what happened. I've got to look forward, to get healed and get better," he added. "The good thing about this injury — I have more time hanging out with the kids and family, because I've got nothing else going on."

Okur, father of a young girl and newborn son, has been fitted with a new walking boot.

Rather than return to his native Turkey, as he usually does for at least a while after the season, he intends to spend the summer in Utah continuing rehab that started just a few days ago.

Okur had pain in his Achilles for a few days before tearing it, missing one late regular-season game as a result and prompting an anesthesia injection hours before Game 1 of the Nuggets series.

But he doesn't blame the shot for the rupture, saying the anesthesia was injected in the area around, but not inside, the Achilles.

"It has nothing to do with the shot," Okur said.

He said that before the game, in fact, "I thought I was feeling great. During the warmups, no pain at all."

Okur was hurt on an awkward drive to the basket, and the pain was so intense, "I felt somebody kicked me.

"Then we went to the locker room and watched the replay," he said, "and nobody was around me. I said, "Oh-oh, that's no good.' "

Many high-profile athletes have struggled to return from Achilles ruptures and be as effective as they were pre-injury, making Okur — who is extremely disappointed he'll miss the FIBA World Championships in Turkey later this year — eager to make it through rehab without any major setbacks.

"I'll be careful at the beginning," he said.

"Running-wise, jumping-wise, I'll struggle a little bit, I would say," Okur added, "because it's gonna be like six, seven months (all) together."

TWEET THIS: According to the Associated Press, "five disjointed, grammatically challenged messages appeared on (Laker forward Ron) Artest's latest Twitter page late Thursday night, expressing frustration that (Laker coach Phil) Jackson had spoken to the media about Artest's play before talking to the veteran forward personally."

But, AP reported, "Artest wouldn't say whether he had written the tweets when asked Friday."

The hunch in Jazzland on Saturday was the antics wouldn't play well with coach Jerry Sloan.

"I think coach might go find whoever made Twitter and take the whole thing down," forward Carlos Boozer said.

DRAFT TALK: Exact draft positions aren't even set yet; that won't happen until the May 18 draft lottery. But ESPN.com NBA Draft analyst Chad Ford's first mock draft already is out, and it has the Jazz taking 6-foot-11, 250-pound Georgetown power forward Greg Monroe at No. 9 overall.

Writes Ford about the 19-year-old: "The Jazz are in a position to lose Boozer this summer via free agency, but Monroe would be a solid consolation prize. He's not super athletic, but he's the most skilled big guy in the draft and would be a perfect fit in Sloan's half-court offense."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com