The Thunder has added Darko Rajakovic to its coaching staff as an assistant, the team announced Saturday.
Rajakovic, a Serbia native, previously coached the Thunder-owned Tulsa 66ers, becoming the first head coach in NBA D-League history born outside of North America. He guided the 66ers to a 51-49 record over the past two seasons.
Rajakovic becomes the third 66ers coach to be called up to an NBA team. He joins Dale Osbourne and Nate Tibbets. Osbourne and Tibbets joined Portland as assistant coaches in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
“This is a huge honor for me,” said Rajakovic, who is coaching the Thunder’s summer league team. “I really appreciate the opportunity that the team and coach (Scott) Brooks and Sam Presti gave me to coach the team (in Orlando). I enjoy this group that we have. Working with those guys is great stuff. I want to continue to learn. And as I’m trying to teach those guys, I’m also learning a lot from them as well.”
Prior to joining the 66ers, Rajakovic spent the previous three years as the head coach of Espacio Torrelondones of the Spanish EBA League. He led Torrelondones to the Primera Division de Baloncesto title in his first season at the helm (2009).
Rajakovic began his coaching career at 16 years old with BC Borac Cacak in Cacak, Serbia.
During Rajakovic’s time with the 66ers, Tulsa was assigned seven players from the Thunder a total of 50 times, the most in the NBA over that stretch. The assignees included current Thunder players Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb and Andre Roberson. Rajakovic also has 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.
Rajakovic coached 11 Tulsa players over the past two years who were on an NBA roster in the 2013-14 season.
“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,” Brooks said. “His understanding of core tenets 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.”
TURNOVERS TELL THE STORY
The Thunder couldn’t take care of the ball Saturday.
An opening-day-high 27 turnovers at the Orlando Pro Summer League resulted in the Thunder suffering a shocking 84-63 loss to Memphis in the final game of the day.
The Grizzlies scored 36 points off the Thunder’s giveaways.
Every Thunder player but Jones had at least one turnover. Roberson led the way with five. Nolan Smith and Lamb each had four.
Memphis had just 10 turnovers, which the Thunder turned into only 11 points.
“It’s the start of the week after just three days of practices,” Rajakovic explained. “We’re just trying to move the ball and play aggressively. That was something that we anticipated; definitely something that we need to continue to work on this week. And that’s going to be a big emphasis for the whole week, not just turnovers but every single little detail that we want our guys to get better in this period.
ADAMS SUSTAINS SHIN CONTUSION
Thunder center Steven Adams had to be removed from Saturday’s game in the first quarter because of a shin contusion. He returned to start the second half and played 18 minutes.
Adams played through a noticeable limp, but he is not expected to miss any games that he already wasn’t scheduled to sit out for rest purposes.
“Steven is a tough kid, and I’m 100 percent sure he’s going to be ready for the games. The only thing is that you can anticipate that some of the guys from our roster, they’ll sit out some of the games. We won’t play all the guys every game. So you can anticipate that during this week.”
Adams scored seven points with two rebounds and two blocked shots.
SIXERS MONITORING NOEL’S MINUTES
Philadelphia forward Nerlens Noel made his summer league debut after missing the entire 2013-14 season while recovering from a torn ACL.
Noel, who slipped to the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft after being projected to go first overall, scored a team-high 19 points with two rebounds, three assists, four steals and one blocked shot. He played 26 minutes.
It’s unclear if he’ll play Sunday against the Thunder. Tip-off is 4 p.m.
“I don’t have many limitations, but we will be diligent, especially for this being my first game,” Noel said. “So I definitely will see how I feel (Sunday). But I feel pretty good so we’ll just keep it going and watch it carefully.”
The Thunder announced Saturday that it has signed first-round draft pick Mitch McGary to his rookie scale contract. … Jones scored a team-high 15 points for the Thunder. He made five of seven shots, two 3-pointers and added six rebounds. … Lamb scored 14 points but went 4-for-12 from the field. … Grizzlies guard Jordan Adams, the 22nd overall pick, scored a game-high 22 points against the Thunder.