Jazz center Mehmet Okur may be on track to play for the first time in L.A.’s first round series against Utah on Saturday in Salt Lake City, he told assembled reporters after Utah’s Friday practice.
“So far, so good,” Okur said, according to NBA.com’s Dave McMenamin. “It feels good. Less pain. I was able to do more moving and more stuff. I’m probably going to more stuff with the team and see how I feel.”
Of course, Okur also gave the proverbial “We’ll see how it feels after practice” bit that means we won’t really know if he’s playing after Saturday’s shootaround, or later: Jerry Sloan’s pregame press time. But Okur’s tone alone is a marked change from his previous comments about his strained right hamstring, and even if he’s dragging it around the floor, you have to think that Utah can benefit from Okur’s ability to stretch the floor on offense and his size on the low block.
After all, Jarron Collins, who’s been starting in Okur’s stead, has averaged just 2.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and three fouls in 11.7 minutes. Sloan instead played backup power forward Paul Millsap at center to the tune of 32 minutes, in which he put up 11.7 points and 9.7 rebounds. Even if Okur plays only 15 minutes, Utah’s bench will get the boost of more time with Millsap, and perhaps most importantly, can pull Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol out of the paint with his ability to shoot the three.
The Lakers, however, prepared for the series as if Okur was going to play in game one, and will be able to call upon previous experience of dealing with him. There will be no surprises with the Turkish star on the floor, but another weapon with which to deal nonetheless.
The contrarian perspective is that a less than 100 percent Okur could end up hurting his team, especially defensively … But the Jazz will be more than willing to take their chances if he says he can play on game day.