The Tulsa 66ers put center Daniel Orton on their training camp roster Wednesday morning and shortly thereafter the Thunder reclaimed the former Bishop McGuinness High School standout.
“I've got more support here than anywhere else, so it feels good to be somewhere where you know you're going to be for sure,” Orton said. “You know it's a business and they're going to make business decisions, so you have to go with it.”
OKC, which previously had waived Orton on Saturday morning, now has a 14-man roster and likely will not fill its one available spot in order to remain under the NBA's tax level.
“I'm happy for him,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Orton, who spent his first two NBA seasons with the Orlando Magic before the Thunder signed him last summer for his league minimum of $854,000. “He worked his butt off all training camp, all summer to get in the condition that he's in. it gives us another big that can play.”
Just hours after Orton was waived, OKC traded away James Harden, Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward and center Cole Aldrich, which left the Thunder with just two centers in Kendrick Perkins and Hasheem Thabeet.
“We always would like to have good bigs around and he (Orton) is another good big,” Brooks said. “I'm excited that he's back and our players are also. One of the tough things in this league is letting players go as a coach. We're not computers. We can't turn (your emotions) on and off. It's an emotional attachment you have with players, but it's good to see a player two days ago you gave him bad news and a few days later, you gave him good news.”
Throughout training camp, Brooks insisted there was a battle between Eric Maynor and Reggie Jackson for the backup point-guard spot.
After Wednesday's hourlong practice before the team departed for San Antonio, Brooks played coy and said media wouldn't know the winner until he inserted the player in the first quarter of Thursday's 8:30 p.m. season opener against the Spurs at the AT&T Center.
Shortly after leaving the interview area, Brooks returned and announced Maynor was his choice.
The opener against the Spurs is a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals, which the Thunder won 4-2 after falling behind 2-0.
Since then, many have proclaimed the Thunder vs. Spurs as the new top rivalry in the West.
“I don't get into that, because if you do you put more emphasis on (beating) one team,” Brooks said. “You have to have 29 rivalries. You have to really believe that. If you don't, it sends a mixed message to the players that this game is more important than other games. From a fan's perspective, I'm sure you can say that (it's a rivalry with the Spurs) because they've won so many championships, the (Los Angeles) Lakers have won so many champions and Dallas would be in there. There are so many intriguing matchups, it's hard just to pinpoint one.”
66ERS NAME COACH
The 66ers named Darko Rajakovic (Rahj-a-KOE-vich) as their head coach. A Serbian native, the 33-year-old Rajakovic becomes the first head coach in D-League history born outside of North America.
“We value his diverse basketball background and embrace the European influence that he will have on our development program in Tulsa,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said.
Rajakovic spent the past three years as coach of the Espacio Torrelodones in the Spanish EBA League. He began his coaching career at 16 years old with BC Borac Cacak (Serbia) as the youngest coach in the team's history. At age 19, he joined Red Star Belgrade (Serbia) to coach the Under-20 and Under-18 teams.
Rajakovic speaks Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian languages as native, but is also fluent in English, Spanish and basic Greek.
Orton when asked if he learned a lesson in adversity after being waived by OKC: “I've learned my adversity lessons more so than anything long ago. That (getting waived) wasn't really a lesson. It was something that happens and you have to deal with it.”
BY JOHN ROHDE