Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Kosta Koufos is about to get a lot more playing time. It just won't be with the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz told the second-year center Sunday that they plan on reassigning him today to their D-League affiliate, the Utah Flash, according to Jazz spokesman Jonathan Rinehart.
The Jazz also confirmed that they intend to sign rookie point guard Sundiata Gaines today for the remainder of the NBA season, Rinehart indicated. That move will result in a financial gain for Gaines of another $215,336 — a pro-rated portion of the NBA minimum — to go with the $53,834 he earned during his pair of 10-day contracts.
That's a nice raise from his $19,000 D-League salary.
Koufos, who remains under contract with the Jazz, should join the Flash this morning for a shootaround and will likely see action tonight. The Flash host the Maine Red Claws, who are coached by Danny Ainge's son and former BYU guard, Austin Ainge.
This will be seldom-used Koufos' first trip to play with the Orem-based Flash this season and his second D-League stint.
Last year as a rookie, Koufos was sent down to the Flash on March 25, and averaged 16.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks before being recalled after 10 games.
Koufos, who was drafted in 2008 after his freshman season at Ohio State, has struggled in his rare playing time with the Jazz.
The 20-year-old has only appeared in 21 of Utah's 43 games, averaging just 1.3 points on 40.9 percent shooting, 1.1 rebounds and a sparse 3.6 minutes this season.
As for Gaines, he has impressed the Jazz's front office — and made a national name for himself — since joining the team three weeks ago.
Gaines, of course, is most famous for hitting a game-winning 3-pointer to beat LeBron James and Cleveland only a week after being called up on a 10-day contract from the D-League's Idaho Stampede.
He earned a second 10-day contract even before his buzzer-beater, and has appeared in eight games with the Jazz. The University of Georgia product has averaged 2.9 points, 1.1 assists, 0.9 rebounds and 7.1 minutes in his short NBA career.
Utah had to make a decision on Gaines' future by Sunday when his second 10-day deal expired. He is expected to sign the contract this morning.
The announcement regarding these transactions was made after Sundays' practice, so neither player was available for comment. General manager Kevin O'Connor did not return a phone call Sunday but said Gaines has "carried himself well" on Saturday.
SMART TO START: Jazz coach Jerry Sloan made an interesting admission about Andrei Kirilenko, who has helped Utah win six of seven games since being reinserted into the starting lineup.
While complimenting Kirilenko for giving the Jazz an extra dimension with his shot-blocking, defense and improved shooting, Sloan second-guessed himself for having the nine-year veteran come off the bench for most of the season.
"I probably should have had him doing it (starting) early if I had been smart enough," the self-deprecating Sloan said.
"I just felt like in the beginning," he added, "we needed more experience coming off the bench, and I was probably — look back on it — probably wrong."
Kirilenko has shot 57 percent and averaged 12.6 points since returning to the starting five. He also has pulled in 4.3 rebounds and had 11 steals in Utah's hot stretch.
But Kirilenko, who practiced with a wrapped jammed knuckle on his left hand Sunday, isn't taking credit for the Jazz's turnaround. He says it's a team thing.
"We start playing better defensively," he said. "That's probably one of the keys for success, not me personally, but the team is getting better."<
Though it's working well now, Utah is only 8-6 this season when Kirilenko starts.
HOT SHOTS: Utah's sizzling shooting didn't just help the Jazz cruise to a 116-83 blowout of the New Jersey Nets.
The game-long 61.1 percent shooting and 12-for-14 first quarter — an 85.7 percent mark that was the best for a period in 21/2 seasons — vaulted Utah to the top of the NBA for field-goal percentage.
The Jazz are now tied with Boston with a league-best shooting mark of 48.7 percent.
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