Ronnie Price patiently kept his dribble going, waiting for Devin Harris to finally look up.
Once Harris' eyes locked onto Price, the Jazz reserve guard showed the starter what he and many Utah fans have been missing.
Price faked left, cut right, crossed over, then darted ahead. It was vintage Price. It was also something neither Harris nor Jazz followers have seen for more than a month.
"Everything feels great," said Price, prior to a workout Thursday morning at the team practice facility.
So great that, barring a setback, Price expects to return to action Sunday at Houston.
The 6-foot-2, 187-pound guard has missed nine consecutive games and 14 of 15 since spraining his big right toe Feb. 9 against Chicago. Price initially thought that the injury would keep him out for a couple practices, a game at most. Fifteen contests later, the six-year veteran is balancing excitement with patience as he anticipates officially stepping back on the hardwood.
Recent injuries to Jazz starters Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko and Raja Bell have drawn the most attention during the past two weeks of up-and-down Utah basketball, overshadowing Price's downtime. But the speedy, aggressive guard is a key piece to the Jazz's second unit, and his addition should give Utah an extra weapon as the team attempts to overtake Memphis for eighth place in the Western Conference with 13 regular-season contests to go.
"It's been very frustrating to watch," said Price, who is averaging 3.1 points and 11.4 minutes in 54 games. "To know that I probably could have been playing a lot of minutes and had a chance to help the team in some way. To not have that opportunity when that opportunity is there is kind of tough. But everything happens for a reason I'm a firm believer in that."
Price plans to test his foot during three practices that will separate the Jazz's home win Wednesday against Minnesota with an important road game Sunday versus the Rockets, who sit in 10th place in the conference and are just a game behind Utah. After suffering a setback Feb. 26 when he played 15 minutes against Detroit but reinjured his foot the former Utah Valley State standout will now run the court with small orthopedic plates in his shoe that are expected to provide extra comfort.
Price was able to see the Jazz differently as he viewed 14 contests from the sideline. But while he is already an off-the-court leader and the team's NBA player representative, he is nowhere near ready to box up his sneakers and put on a suit and tie for the long term.
"When you do sit out so much, you miss the game," said Price, who is in the final year of his contract with Utah. "You miss being on the floor. You miss just playing basketball."
Millsap (left knee tendinitis) also returned to practice Thursday. The Jazz's second-leading scorer and rebounder has missed five consecutive games due to the injury. … Utah reserve center Francisco Elson, who has missed six straight matchups because of a sprained left ankle/inflamed left knee, was scheduled to go through a light workout session. … Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said he is unsure whether center Marcus Cousin will receive a second 10-day contract. Cousin has teamed well with rookie forward Derrick Favors, and has been well received by his Utah teammates and coaches. His chances of remaining with the Jazz appeared to improve when it was announced Wednesday that center Mehmet Okur will miss the rest of the season due to lingering back pain. But the Jazz will have three centers if Elson is activated, which could make Cousin expendable. … Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) did not practice Thursday.
Jazz at Rockets
P Sunday, 5 p.m.
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