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If the Jazz's most fervent Christmas wish is for Andrei Kirilenko to swoop in and rescue them from their losing-streak doldrums, it's going to be a bleak holiday season in Utah.
Kirilenko, who injured a ligament in his right knee on Nov. 27, won't even begin to rehabilitate the sprained MCL until the Jazz return from their upcoming eastern road trip at Christmas, the Jazz's medical staff has determined. While nobody can predict how long a rehab will be necessary, don't expect to see the Jazz's all-star in uniform for another month.
"He understands this is a slow process," said Jazz trainer Gary Briggs. "We're still in the healing process now. [After Christmas], we'll get to the rehab phase."
Kirilenko will stay home this weekend while the Jazz go to Portland, and he also will skip the team's annual holiday trip, that this year takes the Jazz to Phoenix, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Toronto. Instead, the Russian forward will meet daily with Jazz physical therapist Marlin Forsyth to conduct workouts targeting his upper body and healthy left leg.
"By the time we get back from that trip, we can adjust [Kirilenko's workout] to start doing lower-body stuff," Briggs said. What happens then "will be determined by the amount of pain and swelling."
The knee, which buckled awkwardly when Spurs guard Beno Udrih fell into him in San Antonio last month, producing a Grade 2 sprain, is no longer swollen, Briggs said, but the ligament itself still is tender. Kirilenko has been ordered to wear a brace during all waking hours, to stabilize the knee.
"The doctors have explained to him, if his little boy runs into him, if he slips on the stairs, if he steps on a stone walking across the street and tweaks the ligament again, we're back to day one," Briggs said.
Kirilenko has missed most of the Jazz's practices lately in order to spend several hours a day in a hyperbaric chamber, which increases air pressure in order to force extra oxygen into the bloodstream and speed tissue healing. Those treatments, and his medication, ended Thursday, and the team is moving on to underwater exercises, electric-current sessions and other low-impact treatments, Briggs said.
While Kirilenko's recovery will take some time, Briggs said, there should be no lingering effects once Kirilenko returns.
Borchardt still on mend
Curtis Borchardt reaches the five-game minimum stint on the injured list tonight, but he still has some pain in his surgically-rebuilt right foot and is not ready to return to practice yet, Briggs said. "As long as he has soreness, we're going to hold him [back]," the trainer said, in hopes of preventing a recurrence.
Meanwhile, Raja Bell missed Thursday's practice because of sore feet. The team believes the problem may be with Bell's shoes, Briggs said, but held him out as a precaution.
The Jazz's six-game losing streak matches the longest of coach Jerry Sloan's Jazz career, though the Bulls lost seven straight three times while Sloan coached Chicago in the early 1980s. . . . Sloan said his back-to-basics approach to defense hasn't shown the results he had hoped for yet. "In a couple of things, I didn't see much progress," he said. . . . Beginning tonight, 50 children will attend Jazz home games using tickets purchased by Carlos Boozer. Boys and Girls Clubs of America are coordinating the "Boozer's Buddies" program for underprivileged kids.