Fesenko gets surprise start

Published December 23, 2008 11:09 pm
Short-lived » He is pulled after less than four minutes of flub-filled action in relief of Okur.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There was nothing wrapped with a bow, no card with his name on it, but Kyrylo Fesenko couldn't help but joke that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan had given him an early 22nd birthday present Tuesday.

With Mehmet Okur bothered by back spasms, Sloan opted to start the second-year center against the Bucks. Even Sloan admitted he "probably shocked" Fesenko when he delivered the news an hour before tipoff.

Fesenko had been inactive for the first four games of the Jazz's trip and last played almost a month ago, in a Nov. 29 game against New Jersey. He had played in six games for a total of 27 minutes all season before Tuesday.

"I've been practicing for 14 years, so I think I'm ready to go," said Fesenko, whose birthday is today.

Sloan disagreed after Fesenko's first NBA start lasted only 3:45. The Bucks went to Andrew Bogut for two baskets against Fesenko, who also picked up two quick fouls and screened out Deron Williams on a pick-and-roll coverage.

"I didn't think he was ready to play," said Sloan, who started Kosta Koufos in the second half.

Okur, meanwhile, said his back tightened after Saturday's loss to Chicago. He went through Tuesday's pregame shootaround -- Fesenko noticed Okur wasn't going at full speed -- and said he felt worse.

The way I feel right now, just not getting going, can't run right now 100 percent and stuff," Okur said. "Hopefully, I'm going to be fine after tonight's game, couple days [rest] and I'm going to get treatment and I'll be ready to go next game."

Okur also tried to put his back issues in perspective, saying "My back hurts every day," even when the Jazz aren't playing. "It's always there for me, since I was 18."


Sloan was disappointed by another slow start Tuesday (the Jazz trailed by 10 in the first quarter) as well as their 22 turnovers, which the Bucks converted into 26 points. The Jazz averaged 18.6 turnovers on the five-game trip.

"You can't be fighting an uphill battle on the road every game," Matt Harpring said. "We've got to come out with a lot more energy and hopefully they chase us, not we chase them."

Sloan also accused some of his players of "calling it in" when it came to settling for jumpers and failing to fight through screens on defense. Michael Redd took advantage in scoring nine straight points in the first quarter for Milwaukee.

With the Jazz finishing the trip 2-3, Williams said: "It just turned into a bad road trip. It was already not as good as we wanted to be, after the Chicago loss, but this one made it even worse. We felt we had to come in here and get this one."

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