Andrei Kirilenko has re-entered the building.
Or, has he?
It was Greg Ostertag who once suggested he had been beamed heavenward and taken captive by aliens who replaced him on the court with an imposter.
On the other hand, maybe they just absconded with 'Tag's brain. That could, as well as anything else, explain Kirilenko's odd behavior and performance last season, all culminating in his trade demand a month ago.
But, in Wednesday's preseason opener, Kirilenko suddenly did all the things he used to do, running the floor, blocking shots, making plays, filling out the stat sheet in a manner that brought back warm memories.
A few notes and warnings, though: Kirilenko remains unwilling to talk about his strong comments regarding his wanting out of Utah and not wanting to play for Jerry Sloan. Those original comments came directly from Kirilenko. They were not, as has been suggested recently by those wishing it were otherwise, blown out of proportion by the media. Those words came straight from the player's blog. And he confirmed them later.
Was he using that, along with any resultant public pressure, as leverage for moving Sloan off his stubborn spot and getting the offensive role Kirilenko wanted? Jerry typically doesn't just cave like that, but he's not bullheaded to the point of being flat-out stupid, either.
It's still evident in Kirilenko's body language that something's amiss. He may revert for a time back to his old unique play on the floor, but a sobering fact is worth remembering: As a max-money player, that is the only way he can make himself marketable via trade. Until he emphatically rescinds his trade demand, that thought cannot be minimized or dismissed.
"No comment" doesn't cut it.
Morris Almond has a sweet stroke.
There's been so much discussion about the Jazz's situation at 2-guard. If half your roster is taken up by heretofore undistinguished or unknown off guards, that means one of two things: you either have real hope for something extraordinary to emerge, or you have none at all.
The Jazz have real hope, and a lot of it emanates from the rookie. He can dust the net from mid to long range, and that's important at the position they call shooting guard. If he can play a bit of defense, and Sloan imparts some playing time, Almond can help.
Ronnie Brewer should be the starter at 2.
Should have gotten more minutes last season, too, despite his questionable range. He's not a great shooter, but, put on the floor with the right players, he can contribute. Brewer's been impressive - big, strong, confident - through camp and the first preseason game, in which he attacked the rim with ferocity, and he also gives the Jazz a component they lack: athleticism at both ends. Against the Bucks, Michael Redd could have gone for 30, maybe more, but Brewer would have gotten some of it back. As it was, he scored 17 points, the same as Redd.
Here's the inescapable truth: Brewer's an intriguing player, an important one, who is an authentic wild card in the Jazz's quest to get better by improving from within.
Bless Carlos Boozer.
The Jazz are waiting with pockets full of patience - but also anxiety - at the door for the keystone of their franchise to arrive from Miami. His son's health battles are well known and well understood, and anyone with proper perspective knows Boozer is doing the right thing by putting those familial needs first.
The hell with the preseason.
Still, the parallels with Derek Fisher's struggle from the postseason and offseason likely trouble some people, especially with him now playing for the Lakers.
No matter. Boozer's briefly attending to his son's care is - and should be - his top priority and an appropriate move. Boozer will be back soon enough and in a better place to focus on basketball, knowing he did what he could and should over a relatively short span at his young child's bedside.
Kyrylo Fesenko is big and slow, and kind of goofy.
The 20-year-old rookie center went for seven points against the Bucks and blocked some shots, but he also moved around the court in chunks of time best measured by carbon dating. Afterward, Fesenko hunched and giggled about his first chance to play in an NBA game, even if it was just an exhibition.
"My body was shaking," he said.
If so, it shook s-l-o-w-l-y.
Fesenko did more than put the "d" in deliberate, he put the "p" in project, looking like Steve Austin tripping into bionic mode as he jumped over a fence into the front seat of his Mercedes-Benz SL-Class convertible back in the '70s. Fesenko will do likewise, jumping back, and maybe forth, from the Jazz to the D-League.
The Jazz have a chance to be a pretty good basketball team.
LaVell Edwards used to utter those words before every season, of course, subbing in football for basketball. Sometimes it was true, sometimes not so much.
For the Jazz, it is true. Without injury, this team should be better than it was a season ago, particularly due to Deron Williams' and Boozer's continued growth, along with the added experience of all the younger players. If Kirilenko decides to earnestly pitch in and stick around - we'll believe it when we see it - the Jazz will only need added defensive presence to complete the reality of the promising deal. Consistent shot-making from the perimeter is the other serious need.
"I feel pretty good about this team," Harpring said. "But there's more work to do."
Preseason: Today, 5:30 p.m., no TV