SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -With 260 pounds crashing down on his head, Dee Brown's neck stretched so far the Utah Jazz rookie wondered whether he would play basketball again.
Brown had fallen while playing defense and was sitting in the lane when Mehmet Okur, Utah's 6-foot-11 center, fell directly on Brown's head, forcing his chin to his chest.
``It's a pain I can't really explain,'' said Brown, the point guard who missed two games after the frightening injury but is back with the Jazz as they prepare for the Western Conference finals.
The injury occurred May 9 in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against Golden State. Brown hadn't played much in the seven-game series against Houston in the opening round, but the Jazz needed his quickness to try to keep up with the Warriors' up-tempo offense.
And when starter Deron Williams went out with two quick fouls and Derek Fisher was still on his way back from New York because of a family illness, Utah needed Brown even more.
Brown tried to take a charge from Golden State's Matt Barnes and fell under Okur, who couldn't avoid landing on his 6-foot, 180-pound teammate.
Brown stayed down after the whistle and it took several minutes before he was helped back to his feet. He knew his neck was hurt, but didn't want to be taken off the court on a stretcher, so he walked gingerly - with some help - to the locker room.
``I wanted to see and make sure everything was still operating,'' Brown said. ``I was just a little nervous - a little shaken up. It was something that I just wanted to do.''
Brown had X-rays taken and went to the hospital as a precaution. The diagnosis was a sprain. He knew it could have been much, much worse.
``I was thinking about basketball,'' Brown said. ``It really hit me. That may have been my last basketball game.''
It wasn't. Six days later, Brown returned to the lineup and looked as spry as before while helping the Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors and clinch the Western Conference semifinal series in five games Tuesday night.
``He's a tough guy. I figured he was going to get up that night,'' said Williams, Brown's college teammate at Illinois. ``It turned out to be a little more serious.''
Brown played 9 minutes, 18 seconds in his return, getting called on again when Williams was called for two quick fouls. Brown finished with two points and two assists and one big deflection that kept the Warriors from an easy basket as Brown went full-speed into the front row.
Brown had received a warm reception from the Jazz fans when he entered the game and another that was much louder when he left it.
``It was an extra-hustle play. That's my job. That's my role - to get out there and provide the extra-hustle plays and provide energy,'' Brown said. ``I take pride in doing that for my team.''
Brown put a heating pad on his neck when he went back to the bench. He said it is still stiff, but not enough to keep him out of the conference finals.
The Jazz took Brown in the second round of the draft last summer. He played in 49 games during the regular season, averaging 1.9 points and 1.7 assists. He finished with 83 assists with just 31 turnovers, giving the Jazz a dependable backup for Williams.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan has a reputation for not playing rookies much, but started giving Brown more time late in the season. Brown had 13 points and eight assists in the regular-season finale against the Rockets.
``My time will come. I'm very understanding and very grateful. I know I'm blessed where I'm at,'' Brown said. ``Every time he called my name, I was ready to play and I was excited.''

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