Archive for July 5th, 2014

The Oklahoma City Thunder has named Darko Rajakovic as assistant coach, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti. Rajakovic has spent the past two seasons as the head coach of the Tulsa 66ers, the Thunder’s NBA D-League affiliate.

“Darko’s diverse basketball background, knowledge of the game and ability to develop players at a high level were clearly apparent during his time in Tulsa, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to add him to our staff,” said Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. “His understanding of the core tenants of what we do, thanks to his time in Tulsa, will maintain a level of consistency that we value and his various head coaching experiences internationally will provide another layer to our coaches.”

A Serbian native, Rajakovic was the first head coach in NBA D-League history born outside of North America. Rajakovic led Tulsa to a combined 51-49 record over two seasons, including a 27-23 record and NBA D-League Semifinals appearance in 2012-13.

During his time with the 66ers, Tulsa was assigned seven players from Oklahoma City a total of 50 times (the most in the league during that stretch), including current Thunder players Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb and Andre Roberson. Rajakovic has also seen five of his 66ers players receive call-ups to the NBA, including four to the Thunder (Grant Jerrett, Daniel Orton, Mustafa Shakur and Reggie Williams). He coached 11 Tulsa players over the past two years who were on an NBA roster in the 2013-14 season.

Prior to joining the 66ers, Rajakovic spent the previous three years as the head coach of Espacio Torrelodones of the Spanish EBA League. In his first season (2009), Rajakovic led Torrelodones to the Primera Division de Baloncesto title, promoting the team to the Liga EBA.

Rajakovic began his coaching career at 16 years old with BC Borac Cacak in Cacak, Serbia. Following his three-year stint in Cacak, Rajakovic was named the head coach of the U-20 and U-18 teams of Red Star Belgrade. During his eight years in Belgrade, Rajakovic led Red Star to two Serbian championships. Rajakovic received a basketball coaching degree from the Belgrade Basketball Academy in 2004 and a degree in sports management from BK University in Belgrade in 2006.

Thunder sign rookie Mitch McGary

Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced today that the team has signed forward Mitch McGary. As a first round draft pick, McGary was guaranteed to receive a contract. This signing is standard, and was expected.

Taken by the Thunder with the 21st selection in last month’s NBA Draft, McGary appeared in 47 games during his two years at Michigan where he averaged 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game.

During his freshman season, McGary was named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team after helping lead the Wolverines to the National Title game. During tournament play, McGary averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.7 blocks while shooting .678 percent from the field.

Prior to his sophomore campaign, McGary was selected as a preseason Associated Press and USA Today First-Team All-American in addition to being named a preseason candidate for the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Award and USBWA’s Oscar Robertson Award.

McGary is set to participate during this week’s Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League. The Thunder will tip-off summer league competition today at 4 pm CT in a match-up versus the Memphis Grizzlies.

Here’s the Sacramento Bee reporting on the Kings:

The Sacramento Kings are abandoning the arena that has the fewest seats in the NBA. They’re building a new arena … with the fewest seats in the NBA.

The $477 million arena at Downtown Plaza, set to begin construction later this month, will seat just 17,500 fans. That’s fewer than 200 additional seats compared to Sleep Train Arena, which is widely considered outmoded and inadequate for NBA use.

The Kings’ owners say their new building will be more lucrative than Sleep Train through the magic of modern arena design. There will be far more seats in the lower bowl, translating into higher ticket prices. There will be twice as many “premium” seats, including luxury suites and lofts, which will come with VIP perks and be among the most expensive tickets in the house. Those features will more than offset the relatively small total seating capacity, team officials say.

“There will be a massive change in comfort, in amenities, in concessions,” said Kings President Chris Granger, who is overseeing design and construction. “That’s why we’re doing it.”

At 745,000 square feet, including the practice facility, the new arena will be almost 70 percent bigger than Sleep Train.

But why so few seats? The designers are following a less-is-more revolution taking place in sports economics. Spacious arenas with 20,000-plus seats are giving way to cozier buildings that, paradoxically, can generate as much, if not more, profit than the big-box facilities. It’s no coincidence that the newest NBA arena, the 2-year-old Barclays Center in Brooklyn, is currently the league’s smallest with a capacity of 17,732.

Here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting on guard Casper Ware:

Casper Ware was impressive enough this past season to turn a 10-day contract into a season-ending roster spot with the 76ers.

The 5-foot-10 point guard will be looked upon to provide leadership during Saturday’s Orlando Summer League opener against the Magic at Amway Center.

But his earning a roster spot for the forthcoming season is far from guaranteed.

The Sixers acquired Pierre Jackson from the New Orleans Pelicans in a NBA draft-night trade for second-rounder Russ Smith.

Jackson and Ware are the same height. Both are scoring point guards.

Pre-NBA Jason Kidd basketball success

Here’s the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting on new Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, with a look back at his pre-NBA days:

pre-NBA Jason Kidd basketball success

Kidd has been making basketball headlines since he played for Bay area youth teams and starred for St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda, Calif., in the early 1990s.

Frank LaPorte, Kidd’s high school coach, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1991: “As an eighth-grader, Jason Kidd was the talk of the town.”

In his senior season, Kidd led his team to a second straight state championship, averaging 25 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and seven steals. He was named the Parade, USA Today and Naismith prep player of the year in 1992. In January 2012, he was selected as one of the 35 greatest McDonald’s All-American high school players.

Kidd was recruited by the top college programs in the country, including Kansas when Roy Williams was coach there.

“Jason was one of the three best high school guards I have seen in my 15 years in coaching,” Williams said in 1993. “Derek Harper, Kenny Anderson and Jason.”

But Kidd, who was born in San Francisco, turned away from the giants and signed with the University of California.

As a freshman, he averaged 13.0 points, 7.7 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 3.8 steals. He was chosen national college freshman of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and made the 10-player All-Pac-10 team. His 110 steals set an NCAA record for a freshman.

Cal made the NCAA Tournament field and beat Duke on the way to the Sweet 16 before losing to Kansas. Midway through that season, Cal coach Lou Campanelli was fired and replaced by assistant Todd Bozeman. Kidd reportedly was among the Cal players who complained about Campanelli’s sometimes abrasive style. Cal athletic director Bob Bockrath fired him with 10 games left in the 1992-’93 season.

As a sophomore, Kidd averaged 16.7 points, 9.1 assists, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 steals. He led the nation in assists with 272. He was chosen as a first-team All-American and Pac-10 player of the year.

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