Around the NBA: Koufos impresses the folks in Utah

Chris Beaven

It remains to be seen how much Kosta Koufos will help the Utah Jazz this season. But he made a solid first impression on his new team, including star point guard Deron Williams.

The 7-foot-1 rookie out of Ohio State finished as the team’s second-leading scorer in the Rocky Mountain Revue the Jazz hosted. Williams worked out some with the summer team and liked what he saw from Koufos.

“He’s still young. He’s still 19,” Williams told the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. “I don’t know how much he’s gonna help this year. But you can definitely see how talented he is. He can run the floor. He can shoot the ball. Play with his back to the basket a little bit.”

Koufos played in all five games, starting four as the Jazz went 3-2. He averaged 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in 19.4 minutes a game. He didn’t shoot particularly well from the floor (12-of-35) but he hit 14-of-15 foul shots.

His most productive game came against Atlanta, which he started at power forward. He put up 12 points and 10 rebounds in 21 1/2 minutes, grabbing half of his boards on the offensive glass.

Koufos’s high skill level and ability to hit perimeter shots are often cited as his biggest strengths. But he did show some other aspects of his game. In a later game, Koufos passed up an open 15-footer he easily could’ve settled for because he saw the lane open up. Koufos immediately put the ball on the floor, drove in strong and threw down a right-handed dunk. He also showed some flashes of being productive on the offensive boards, which is a good way to earn minutes.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan isn’t expecting an instant impact from Koufos, just a willingness to work.

“It takes a long time for (big) guys,” Sloan said during a Jazz telecast. “Everybody projects them to be stars as soon as we get them. It takes a lot of patience, a lot of hard work.”

Another view

Here’s what David Thorpe, an NBA analyst for, wrote about Koufos: “Coordinated, but slow, with a good frame. Looks like he likes to face up and shoot, but his shot looks flat now. Does an excellent job absorbing contact on shots inside; keeps his shoulders square on finishes. His capacity for work is very high, so rapid improvement is a fair expectation.”

Getting ready

The U.S. men’s basketball team looked solid in its first game together this summer, a 120-65 rout of overmatched Canada on Friday.

“I thought for our fifth day of practice we showed a lot of energy,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Our guys are committed to playing defense.”

The U.S. forced 25 turnovers and scored 43 points off of them. A stat, though, that reveals that there’s work to be done by Team USA was the 19 turnovers committed against 23 assists.

The U.S. left for China after Friday’s game to play four more exhibitions before Olympic play begins Aug. 10.

“I think everybody is so antsy to get on that plane and go over to China,” point guard Chris Paul said. “We’re ready to go.”

Tough practices

Team USA spent plenty of time last week scrimmaging USA Select, a group of younger players viewed as the potential next generation of USA Basketball.

To help ready Team USA for the Olympics, the squad saw plenty of 2-3 zone from the Select team.

Team USA went 7-3-2 in those scrimmages against the team led by Kevin Durant, Kevin Martin and several of last month’s lottery picks – Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless and Russell Westbrook. Others on the roster were J.R. Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jeff Green, Luther Head, Al Horford, Andre Iguodala, Robin Lopez and Rodney Stuckey.

24-second clock

Billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates sat courtside as guests of LeBron James for the Team USA exhibition game against Canada.

Cavs rookie forward J.J. Hickson continues to get good reviews for his performance during the summer. He averaged 19.4 points and 7.8 rebounds, shooting 53.4. wrote that Hickson “displayed a powerful post game with a full repertoire of moves. It looks like he’ll be a steal for the Cavaliers.”

Reach Canton Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail: