The return of center Mehmet Okur to the Utah Jazz after a long absence battling a nagging Achilles injury means big things to a team who has missed having one of its biggest scoring threats.
Okur officially came back to the Jazz’ lineup on Dec. 17 and gradually improved through several games, scoring 13 points against the L.A. Clippers on Dec. 29 before he suffered a back strain.
So in his second official return to the Jazz, he again showed he’s still getting back to his old self, in wins over New York and Cleveland on Jan. 12 and Jan. 14.
He only played 13 minutes against the Knicks on Wednesday, but in limited action scored 10 points.
As time goes on and Okur gains more confidence, his return will be hailed as a turning point in the Jazz’ season and possibly propel the team to something it hasn’t seen in a while: a legitimate shot at a Western Conference title.
His potential to take pressure off Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the front court has to be encouraging to a team which desperately needs his ability to put the ball in the hoop come playoff time.
5. Another big body in the lane.
Okur gives the Jazz something it has lacked through 40 regular season games, and that’s length and size. Even at 6-feet-11-inches and 265 pounds, Memo isn’t the most spectacular defender–and he’d be the first to tell you that–but he does provide the Jazz somebody who can disrupt when necessary, and it will be absolutely necessary in the postseason.
4. A positive attitude on and off the court.
Memo is measured in his actions, and that’s reflected in his play. The same applies when he’s conducting interviews with media members. He’s a national hero in his native Turkey and he’s one of the most likeable players on the Jazz. Being a veteran, he also provides a steady voice to younger players, like the team’s big offseason acquisition, forward Al Jefferson.
3. He doesn’t foul out often.
In 467 games with the Jazz over a seven-year span, Okur has never averaged more than 3.5 fouls in any year, while putting up over 13 points per game. That reliability, despite what you may think of his sometimes suspect defense, has allowed Okur to nail some big time shots for the Jazz and provide you some late-game heroics.
Perhaps the most invisible part of Okur’s game, his rebounding–which has never dipped below seven boards per game in any full season–is almost as important as his perimeter shooting. This season, with Jefferson’s addition and with Millsap playing his best basketball, Okur’s presence in the paint could be even more rewarding from a team perspective.
1. Perimeter shooting.
Okur is arguably the most dangerous pure shooting center in the league. With the exception of his first season, Memo’s three-point shooting percentage has never dropped below 35 percent. With his field goal percentage above 45 percent throughout his seven-year Jazz career, it’s no small wonder that other NBA teams will be wary when he is 100 percent healthy. And in crunch time? Few NBA players, let alone centers, are better with the ball in their hands.