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Josh Howard has long eyed an April 24 return.

The Jazz forward said Monday he passed another key test in his rehabilitation and continues to move closer toward activation in time for Utah's home game against Phoenix.

Howard stretched, rode a stationary bicycle, went through a pregame-like shooting routine and participated in about 10 minutes' worth of agility drills Monday morning. The action was watched by key Utah personnel, and Howard was held back only as a precautionary measure.

"They're being safe. But they said they'd gradually build me up," said Howard, who's been out since March 20 after undergoing arthroscopic left knee surgery.

Howard was initially ruled out for the regular season. But he's remained optimistic during his rehab and has used the same recovery procedures that helped him overcome a 2010 anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee.

"The more comfortable I am, the sooner I can get out there," said Howard, prior to tipoff against Dallas.

Howard, 31, has played in 41 games this season for Utah, starting 18. He's averaging 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in 23.4 minutes.

Tough love

Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll considers Memphis guard Tony Allen his NBA mentor.

But Carroll said the Grizzlies tough guy accidentally displaced one of his front teeth Saturday, when Allen's elbow hit Carroll's mouth.

The Jazz forward — who was in the starting lineup Monday — ended up with headaches and a minor concussion. He spent Monday at the dentist, undergoing a root canal and nearly having to get a new chomper.

"It's crazy. But it's just part of the game," Carroll said.

Slow return

While Howard makes crucial progress, Jazz forward C.J. Miles is just glad to be walking.

Miles is still recovering from a painful left calf strain he suffered April 8 at San Antonio.

He's out of crutches, is no longer wearing a boot, and was in Utah's locker room pregame. Miles said the Jazz are making sure he doesn't rush his return, though, since a calf tear could set him back months.

However, Miles still left open the possibility of returning for the playoffs if Utah advances to the postseason.

"I'll try and return [then] if we do what we're supposed to do, which I think we will," Miles said.

Utah pride

NBA commissioner David Stern said Monday that Utah's keeping the Jazz.

After Hornets owner Tom Benson recently expressed interest in returning the nickname to New Orleans, Stern shot down the idea at the same time he announced the Crescent City will host the 2014 NBA All-Star Game.

"I wouldn't make it such an important point," said Stern, according to The Times-Picayune. "There are many things that are indigenous to [this] area. I'm sure there will be some [new] wonderful nicknames."

Twitter: @tribjazz, @sluhm

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