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Jazz finally fill empty roster spot with D-League's Gaines

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 7:49 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz, as expected, turned to the D-League to sign a third point guard.

What might have surprised some, though, was that they didn't raid the roster of their Orem-based affiliate.

The Jazz, instead, picked up 6-foot-1 playmaker Sundiata Gaines of the Idaho Stampede for a 10-day contract. The transaction's approval is pending a physical examination, which will take place Wednesday in Utah.

If he gets the necessary medical approval, Gaines will fill the required 13th spot on the Jazz roster that has been open since the team traded Eric Maynor and Matt Harpring to Oklahoma City for salary relief two weeks ago. He could be made available for tonight's home game against Memphis.

Gaines, a University of Georgia product, has averaged 23.9 points on 52.2 percent shooting, 6.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds for Idaho.

The 23-year-old Queens, N.Y. native played for the Bulldogs from 2004-08, and led Georgia to a surprising SEC Tournament championship his senior season. Gaines began his professional career in Italy in 2008 with NGC Cantu before joining the D-League in the fall.

Gaines scored 31 points on 13-for-24 shooting to go with seven assists and two steals with Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor in attendance for a game against the Flash last week in Boise. That was Gaines' fourth 31-point game in 14 D-League outings.

The move might come as a surprise to some, considering Dontell Jefferson, an athletic combo guard from Arkansas, has been one of the D-League's top players this season and knows the Jazz system well. Jefferson has averaged 19.4 points, 6.0 assists and 4.4 boards in his second season with the Utah Flash.

Jefferson was high on the Jazz's prospect list, which the front office narrowed down to about a dozen players over the past two weeks.

Utah also considered making a trade but opted to go the free-agency route for this transaction. The franchise can still make a deal this season through Feb. 18, the NBA's trade deadline.

If Gaines doesn't work out with the Jazz after his short contract expires, it's possible Jefferson or former Flash guard Kevin Kruger could be signed.

Gaines joins Rusty LaRue, Mikki Moore and Louis Amundson as players the Jazz have called up from the D-League.

O'Connor, who spoke to the Deseret News prior to the pick-up Tuesday afternoon, was unavailable for comment about Gaines after the signing was officially announced.

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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