SALT LAKE CITY - Everywhere you looked last night, the Utah Jazz had connections to the 76ers.
There was executive vice-president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor who spent two seasons as the Sixers' director of player personnel. There was Kyle Korver, acquired from the Sixers in a trade a year ago yesterday. There was Matt Harpring, a Sixer in 2001-02. There was Jeff Hornacek, a Sixer during the Doug Moe coaching era, who serves as a shooting instructor.
Oh, and there was Kyrylo Fesenko, the 7-1, 300-pound backup center from Ukraine.
His connection to the Sixers is sort of a reach, but not entirely. The Sixers made him the No. 38 pick in the second round of the 2007 draft, although they made the selection for the Jazz as part of a previous deal.
"We did bring him in for an interview," Sixers coach Tony DiLeo said before last night's game against the Jazz. "We liked him, and he showed a lot of personality, but we weren't sure about whether he would come to the NBA or stay in Europe."
Fesenko spent most of last season playing for the Utah Flash, the Jazz' affiliate in the NBA Development League, appearing in just nine games with the Jazz. But with the Jazz missing the injured Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur on Saturday night in Houston, Fesenko found himself on the court for 34 rugged minutes in a 120-115 double overtime loss.
Fesenko had 12 points, 11 rebounds and five fouls, mostly against the Rockets' 7-6 center Yao Ming.
"Did [the Sixers] draft him for us?" Jazz coach Jerry Sloan deadpanned. "You've got a good memory. I didn't know how he got here."
Before Saturday night, Fesenko had played in just eight games this season, for a total of 47 minutes. But as shorthanded as the Jazz were, and with rookie Kosta Koufos starting at center, he became the backup big man.
"It's just a matter of these young guys waiting for the opportunity," Sloan said. "The first time we put [Fesenko] out there [in Milwaukee], he really struggled. But I think the last two games it seems like his attention is much greater on what he has to do."
The Sixers went in to last night's game averaging 94.4 points per game. Over a full season, that would be their lowest output since 2003-04, when they averaged 90.5. They have dropped from 101.3 in 2005-06, to 98.0 in '06-07, to 96.2 last season . . . For the Jazz,
(strained left quadriceps) and
(strained left knee) remained out, while
(inflamed right elbow) was listed as a game-time decision. *