Commentary

Potential outpaces performance for Koufos

Updated: July 19, 2008, 4:30 PM ET
By Tim Buckley | Special to ESPN.com

Kosta KoufosMelissa Majchrzak/Getty ImagesIf Kosta Koufos is the player Jerry Sloan seems to think he is, no one will remember his rough debut.

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah -- American-born Kosta Koufos holds dual United States-Greece citizenship, and could have played this week for Greece at FIBA's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens.

Instead he chose to join the Utah Jazz, who selected him 23rd overall in the first round of June's NBA Draft, for the Rocky Mountain Revue summer league, which began Friday at Salt Lake Community College.

His welcome to the NBA world -- an 82-57 loss to San Antonio in the Jazz's Revue opener -- proved quite the whirlwind experience.

"The two-a-days may have hurt him a little bit. Then the game picked up a little faster than two-a-days, so his head may be spinning,'' said Jazz assistant coach Tyrone Corbin, who worked Utah's bench as head coach Jerry Sloan watched from the baseline. "But he ought to figure it out pretty fast, because it's only going to get faster from here.''

The former Ohio State center had five points and four rebounds in 14 minutes, but he picked up two fouls in the game's first three minutes, 41 seconds -- and played only 32 seconds in the second quarter before getting called for his third.

"The NBA is a fast-paced game,'' said Koufos, who went 10-plus minutes in the second half with just one foul. "I'm still trying to learn the system. Every day I'm getting better, feeling more comfortable.'"

As much as Jazz fans may have left the junior-college gym uncomfortable about their first-round pick, those who have spent the past week with him up close seem to have few doubts about the teen's long-term promise.

"He's still 19. I don't know how much he's gonna help this year. But you can definitely see how talented he is,'' said Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who on Friday signed a max-money contract extension that should keep him in Utah long enough to see Koufos realize his potential.

"He can run the floor. He can shoot the ball, play with his back to the basket a little bit. But he's just gonna have to learn to play a little bit more, and learn how to defend, and just slow down,'' added Williams, who practiced with the Jazz's Revue team during the week and leaves Sunday to join Team USA for its Olympic preparations in Las Vegas. "He's real sped up and wound up right now, just because he's excited. But I think the main thing with him is just convincing him that he doesn't need to score. He just needs to rebound, and defend, and block shots. That's what we really need.''

Even Sloan, normally slow to toss out compliments, had high praise for Koufos, who recently said the door "remains open'' to playing for Greece should it qualify for the Olympics in China.

Greece easily won its quarterfinal game Friday against New Zealand, and the top three teams the qualifying tourney move on to Beijing.

"He runs pretty well for a big guy,'' Sloan said. "He seems to have pretty good hands. He has the ability to be able to shoot the ball pretty well.''

Sloan particularly likes the 7-foot-1 big man's long-distance shot, even if some feel its funky hitch looks awkward.

"So was Larry Bird's. Larry Bird's shot was kind of ugly at times. Except it went in,'' Sloan said. "I'll tell you one thing: When he [Koufos] gets the ball on the perimeter there and looks at the basket, you think it's going in. There are not a lot of guys [like that]. But you think his shot's going in just about every time he shoots it.''

WHO'S HOT

Guard Jeremy Richardson -- who played 27 games for Memphis, San Antonio and Atlanta last season -- had 21 points in 30 minutes as the Hawks beat Dallas 89-74 in the Revue opener.

Richardson, from Delta State, shot 8-of-14 from the field.

Atlanta also got 20 points off the bench from Luke Jackson, a 2004 lottery pick who has bounced around the NBA and the NBA Development League after a back injury derailed his career early on.

Recently signed Gerald Green led the Mavericks with 20 points off the bench.

San Antonio's 2008 first-round draft choice, IUPUI product George Hill, led the Spurs with three assists and 21 points on 6-of-14 field goal shooting in 27 minutes.

WHO'S NOT

Jazz 2007 second-round draft choice Kyrylo Fesenko had this to say about his scoreless, four-foul, seven-turnover, 17-minute performance in Utah's Revue opener: "That was probably my worst game ever.''

Fesenko played nine NBA games as a rookie last season.

NOTES

For a second straight year, restricted free-agent swingman C.J. Miles opted against playing for the Jazz in the Revue.

Last time, he eventually re-signed with Utah -- and drew the ire of Sloan for supposedly not being in tip-top shape when he reported for training camp in the fall. This time, though, the decision to test the market while sitting out the summer league has paid off for the southpaw.

The Jazz learned Friday that Miles, a 2005 second-round draft choice straight out of Dallas Skyline High School, has signed an offer sheet with Oklahoma City.

According to a source, the deal is worth about $15 million over four years, all guaranteed.

The Jazz have seven days to decide whether they'll match, and early indications Friday night were that they weren't sure.

Counting Miles, Utah would have 15 guaranteed contracts. By not matching, the Jazz would have roster flexibility -- and potential playing-time opportunity for shooting guard Morris Almond, a 2007 first-round draft choice from Rice who spent most of last season with the D-League's Utah Flash. Almond had 17 points Friday, but shot just 4-of-12 from the field.

The decision to lure Miles might have been influenced by the presence in Oklahoma City of new assistant general manager Troy Weaver, who was director of player personnel for the Jazz before leaving while the former Sonics still were playing last season in Seattle.

• After watching him play five games at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Dallas decided it had seen plenty from veteran point guard Keith McLeod -- who recently signed with the Mavs -- and opted to scratch him from its Revue roster. McLeod has played 200 career NBA games for Minnesota, Utah, Golden State and Indiana, but spent last season in Italy.

• Jazz Revue-team big man Hiram Fuller, a free agent who has played four NBA games for the Atlanta Hawks, played Friday despite learning earlier this week that a six-year-old cousin in the state of Washington had died in a playground accident. He finished with four rebounds and six points in 18 minutes off the bench.

Tim Buckley covers the Utah Jazz for the Deseret Morning News.