By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Matt Harpring's knees are fine. It's complications from ankle surgery this summer that are keeping him from joining his teammates at Utah Jazz training camp.
Harpring said Monday at Jazz media day that he developed a strep infection after the surgery to remove a bone spur in his right ankle in June. He spent several days at a hospital in Atlanta, then as he was recovering the antibiotics that had been pumped into his body made him painfully sick for another week.
The Jazz were headed to Boise, Idaho, to open training camp Tuesday. Harpring was instead going to Santa Barbara, Calif., to work with personal trainers and try to get his ankle ready for the upcoming season.
"It's been a long process," Harpring said.
Harpring was worried that his ankle could have developed a staph infection, but was relieved when doctors told him it was strep and that after a few weeks of intravenous antibiotics he should be OK. But after the infection cleared up, Harpring said he had severe digestive problems that kept him off his feet for another week.
"I was fortunate it wasn't one of the killer bugs," Harpring said.
Harpring, at 32, was the oldest member of the team until the Jazz added Brevin Knight over the summer. Knight will be 33 in November.
Coach Jerry Sloan, who is in his 21st season with the Jazz, said Harpring was excused from training camp to go work on his ankle. Harpring is the Jazz's sixth man and after 10 years in the league, including the past six with Utah, he wasn't likely to miss much in camp.
Harpring was coming off knee surgery last summer and missed training camp and the seven exhibition games.
Sloan said he wanted Harpring to do whatever he needed to get healthy.
"He plays hard when he steps on the floor. It doesn't take him all day to warm up," Sloan said. "He'll step out there and compete. With guys coming off the bench, that's what you need."
Sloan said some of the other veterans who are going to camp will only have one practice a day. On the list are Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, who won gold medals at the Olympics last month with the U.S. national team.
Utah's roster is nearly the same as when the season ended in the second round of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers. The only newcomers under contract are Knight and rookie center Kosta Koufos.
The Jazz traded Jason Hart to the Los Angeles Clippers for Knight, who will provide the team with an experienced backup to Williams.
Sloan likes the continuity. But he said that alone isn't enough if the team is going to do better than it did last season.
Sloan wants to see how hard the players worked over the summer.
"I don't think you really improve during the season that much," Sloan said Monday. "Players make themselves better players in the summertime if they want to become better players because they can focus and concentrate and not worry about all the other stuff going on."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-09-29-08 1746MDT