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Mehmet Okur ruptured his Achille's heal in the first play-off game last season and spent the entire summer and early fall trying to recover after his surgery. He has spent much of his time in Santa Barbara but he has now returned to SLC and watched the last pre-season game. We caught up with and asked him a few questions and he answered them sincerely as he always does.
SORU: How is the physical therapy and the recovery going?
MEMO: I think it is going well. At Santa Barbara every morning we worked out for about two and a half hours with Dr Marcus and his assistants, every one of which was a specialist in a different aspect of the recovery process. We worked very hard. One assistant would work on my jumping. Another one on my quickness. Another one on strengthening my stomach muscles. They were all in one way connected to getting my strength and agility back. Afterwards each day I would go to a nearby college gym and workout with my personel trainer. I did sprints, a lot of running, shooting drills, post up moves, face up positions. So I hope to be better then new.
SORU: When do you hope to return? You look like you lost a little weight?
MEMO: There is not a date we have set. I will do what the doctors say. However I have started out working with my teammates in non-contact drills. I do a lot of shooting. Five on zeros, three on zeros. The other day I did a 3-2 drill for the first time. Then that went well and I tried a 3-3 drill but my foot started hurting and ı did not push myself. I lost a couple of pounds. I hope to lose a couple of more. Which I will do as soon as I can do five on fives, because I always lose a couple of pounds in those. I watch what I eat, and I only eat what the doctors tell me. When the team heads out East I will return to Santa Barbara and work with the doctors some more. But I feel good and I think everything is going well.
SORU: Utah finished the pre-season unbeaten. How do you see this team? How do you see Al Jefferson, Kyrylo Fesenko and Francisco Elson who will play the same position that you usually do? Will Jefferson gbe able to fill the gap left by Carlos Boozer?
MEMO: The team is playing very well. There is great atmosphere in the locker room, at the practices and in general. I think the success in the preseason will definately have a positive impact on the season. My new teammates adjusted very well and adopted to the system very quickly. Big Al is a great post player and has great feet and moves. He is taking the season very seriously and prepared himself well. He also adjusted to coach Sloan's system pretty quickly. I believe he will have a great impact. Fes had a great summer and prepared much better then he has in the past. He lost some weight and he came ready to his credit. Francisco had an injury which he has just gotten over and he will bring energy and athletizm off the bench. He has good shot as well. I believe all three will do very well. Al and Carlos have some similar skills. However Al is bigger and a better post player. I think he can be a good shot blocker as well. He rolls to the basket more on the pick and rolls where Carlos used to shoot as well. I can say he is a better passer then I thought and he is big and tough. I think he brings some things to the table that we need.
SORU: How does it feel to be away from the team and watch the rest of the guys play while you are in street clothes?
MEMO: Injuries are a part of the game, but man I hate it. Two years ago it was a hamstring injury, and last year the Achille's tendon both at the end of the season. I always try and plat though pain and minor injuries but these were bad. So its very tough watching the guys play out there. It is not something I am used to and I hope that I never have to get used to it. I know what lies ahead, I know my age and I know I have to work extremely hard. Therefore I do everything the doctors say and I don't take off a day.
QUESTION: What do you have to say about the new transfers and the rookies on the team. Also after you there is finally another Turkish big in the NBA. As a matter of fact there are two. What do you feel about Semih Erden and Omer Asik and their performances?
MEMO: I already said what I felt about Big Al and Francisco. Raja Bell we know, we played together before and if he stays healthy he will be a great addition. He knows us, he knows the system. Earl Watson is very experienced. As a matter of fact Al is the least experienced of the four new players and he has played in the NBA for six seasons already. This is big. Well Al is big, this is important. If they buy into the system and fit right in we can go places. The rookies Gordon Hayward well he has "Jazz player" written all over him. He might need some time, but I believe he will be a factor before not long. Jeremy Evans could be this seasons Paul Millsap or Wes Matthews. He needs to get stronger but he can ball. He is lively and athletic. I think we have a great roster. I know people don't think the same and we will be under the radar again. However we always do better then people think we will do, so I think this will be another year like that. We have the best point guard in the NBA, and if we are healthy when the play-off's start we can do anything and everything. As far as Omer and Semih. First of all I wish both of them the best of luck. Because Boozer is out, I think Omer will probably get some more playing time right away. I thought he played pretty well in the pre-season. Semih could have a harder time getting significant minutes because they have so many guys at his position. He got some good playing time so far. He just needs to be ready when the opportunity calls. You never know when the situation will arise so both physically and mentaly you best better be ready. They have both had some trouble staying out of foul problems, but it is normal because the big guys in the NBA are so much faster, and bigger and stronger. They will get used to it. They have to know you will have some good days and some bad days. The NBA is a long haul. So many games. You have to maximize the number of good games you play and minimize the number of bad games. Work hard, try and improve every year, be ready and things will take care of themselves.