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Utah Jazz keep Gaines for at least 10 more days

Published: Friday, Jan. 15 2010 8:56 a.m. MST

Utah Jazz guard Sundiata Gaines hit the game-winning 3-pointer for the Jazz in their win Thursday over the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Jazz guard Sundiata Gaines hit the game-winning 3-pointer for the Jazz in their win Thursday over the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Before Thursday night's game, it looked like Sundiata Gaines would continue to take his NBA career 10 days at a time.

That might not be the case anymore after the rookie point guard came in and saved the day for the Utah Jazz on national television.

The Jazz's secret is out of the bag now.

If they don't keep him longer than his second 10-day contract — which the team decided to give him even before his buzzer-and-Cleveland-beating 3-pointer that gave the Jazz a 97-96 home win late Thursday — somebody else just might pick him up now that they've seen what he can do on national TV.

"We were laughing and joking, that's how you get a second 10-day," Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer said. "That's how you stay on the team. Man, he played really big for us."

The Jazz informed Gaines Thursday morning that they'd decided to extend the former D-League player's stay in the NBA by at least another week-and-a-half.

At least that was the plan, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said in the morning, "unless something crazy happened."

Turns out something crazy happened, and it was in Gaines' favor.

Not only did Gaines hit the big shot, but he gave Utah 10 valuable minutes in the fourth quarter after Deron Williams reinjured his right wrist and left the game for good.

Gaines finished with nine points and one heckuva memorable moment.

"I am on adrenaline right now," he said minutes after hitting the game-winner. "I am happy. ... After Utah picking me up, this is the next best thing to happen in my career."

Gaines certainly won over his hometown crowd and teammates, too.

"The young fella made a huge shot ... he came up big for us," Brewer said. "That was a tough shot, fade-away with a hand in your face, nothing but net."

Earlier in the day, the recent Idaho Stampede player was simply "happy" about the extension and hoped to continue to impress the Jazz, who'll either have to sign him for the season or release him when his second 10-day stint expires.

"The good thing about the 10-day," Gaines said, "is it keeps you hungry, you want more."

The Jazz extended Gaines, O'Connor said, because they've been pleased with how the 23-year-old Georgia product has shown "he can guard pretty well" and has taken good care of the basketball.

Thursday, he showed he had a sweet stroke, too.

Whatever the future holds, Gaines said he's already learned a ton during his NBA experience. Watching an elite point guard like Deron Williams run an offense every day, he pointed out, has been quite valuable but he wants to improve.

"I just want to be more assertive, be more aggressive," Gaines said. "Now I'm comfortable with the offense and I just want to go out and play harder and be more relaxed.

"The first couple of days I was a little tense. And now I'm more comfortable, so I think I'll be fine."

PAY-PER-VIEW?: Several members of the Jazz were asked Thursday morning if they'd fork over their own cash to watch Cleveland superstar LeBron James play.

Coach Jerry Sloan said he'd pay for sure, but joked that he might have to borrow the money.

Williams' response: "Definitely, definitely."

Andrei Kirilenko was the notable exception.

"I'd rather go watch soccer," the Russian admitted with laughter.

Nothing personal against James, of course. Kirilenko has just had a hoops overdose the past 15 years.

"Too much basketball in my life," he said. "Too many games ... so I'd rather watch something else."

How about watching the athletic James play some soccer?

Kirilenko smiled: "Definitely."

HIGH PRAISE: Williams has had a blast playing with James in Team USA experiences, including two summers ago when they were teammates on the gold-medal-winning U.S. squad in the Beijing Olympics.

Consider Williams impressed — by James' leadership, his ability to have fun and how he continues to tear it up in every facet of the sport.

"(James) just seems to always take his game to another level," Williams said. "He's just a great all-around player, a guy that can take over and dominate a game at any time.

"But he just doesn't do it with scoring, he does it with every aspect of the game. He passes like a point guard, he runs the floor like a deer, he can jump out of the gym, and defensively is where he's really, I think, made his mark."

NOW YOU KNOW: The Jazz and Cavaliers are the only teams in the NBA who have wins over the Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers. Utah is the only team to have also beaten the San Antonio Spurs.

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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