Utah Jazz notebook: Sundiata Gaines, Kosta Koufos reunite with team
MINNEAPOLIS — They didn't have any Jell-O salad, nametags or embarrassing stories. Great Aunt Betsy couldn't come, either.
But a reunion was held at the Target Center on Wednesday night.
And it wasn't just Al Jefferson, featured prominently in both daily newspapers and mobbed by media multiple times Wednesday, catching up with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Ex-Jazz players Kosta Koufos and Sundiata Gaines also reunited with their old teammates and coaches for the first time since their departures from Utah.
Both young T-Wolves said they were excited about it, too.
"Yeah," Gaines said with his familiar big smile.
"Definitely," Koufos added.
"We've just got to go out and get this win," Gaines said moments before tipoff. "That'd make it even more special to me."
Unfortunately for Minnesota's ex-Jazz chapter, that special moment will have to wait for another time.
Koufos played eight scoreless minutes and Gaines didn't get off the bench in a 112-107 come-from-behind victory for the Jazz.
Koufos, the Jazz's late first-round pick in 2008, played two seasons in Utah before being shipped up to the Twin Cities in the Jefferson deal this summer.
The 21-year-old said his emotions were "even-keeled" about the transaction.
"I viewed it as another opportunity," Koufos said.
That's how he saw his time in Utah as well.
Koufos was drafted by the Jazz after his freshman season at Ohio State. He was lauded as an extremely hard worker by coaches and teammates, but only converted that effort into averages of 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds in 84 games with Utah.
"It was a good experience for me those two years, learning from a Hall of Fame coach and veterans that have played in the league for a long time," Koufos said. "There were a couple of All-Stars on the team, so just learning, taking in certain information every day and just trying to put it on the court."
Koufos, who's averaging 2.8 points and 2.5 boards in 9.1 minutes with Minnesota, played especially well in recent games. He had back-to-back double-digit rebounding outings last week.
"I feel like I've gotten stronger, faster," Koufos said. "Still, at the same time I have some things to work on, which is good. You can always get better."
Though Gaines was invited to camp this fall with Utah and made one of the greatest plays in Jazz history — ask LeBron James about it — the second-year point guard's fate was doomed before training camp.
That's because the Jazz signed veteran playmaker Earl Watson the week prior to camp starting, giving Utah three point guards with guaranteed contracts.
Gaines ended up getting cut the week before the regular season tipped off, ending his magical nine-month run with Utah after being plucked out of the D-League.
The injury-plagued T-Wolves signed the undrafted free agent last month.
"It was a tough situation," Gaines said. "But the biggest thing out of it is I'm just happy to be on another team now and get a chance to play. It's been going all right so far."
Gaines thoroughly enjoyed his time in Utah — and not just his heroics against Cleveland. He's only seen action in seven games with Minnesota, averaging 3.0 points and 0.9 assists.
Asked what he took away from his Jazz playing experience, Gaines responded: "Just having all of the veterans around and knowing what it takes to win — how hard you've got to play, just the discipline and how cohesive of a team that they were."
Minnesota makes its first trip to Utah on Jan. 28.
OKUR OUT: Mehmet Okur missed another game because of his mildly sprained right ankle and continues to be listed as day-to-day.
Okur also missed Monday's game in Cleveland with the injury, which occurred in a pregame workout. Memo had played in the previous two games after spending eight months rehabbing his ruptured left Achilles tendon.
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