Utah Jazz basketball: Burks gives fans something to cheer for
SALT LAKE CITY — In football, it isn't uncommon for the backup quarterback to be the most popular player in town.
With the starter's flaws on regular display, it's easy for fans to envision superior performances from the guy toting around the clipboard.
In some ways, Alec Burks is the Jazz's version of the backup quarterback.
Fans have seen flashes of brilliance from the young shooting guard out of Colorado. They've been impressed by his energy, his explosive play, his occasional outside jumper. Some see him as the future at the shooting guard spot. He's so confident, he'd tell you that should be the case, too.
As such, a contingent of Jazz fans has been vocal — at arenas and especially online — about wanting to see him get more minutes than other Jazz wings, especially veterans like Raja Bell last season and Randy Foye this year.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin empathizes.
In fact, it's almost become cliche for Corbin to answer questions about the 21-year-old by saying he's deserving of more time and that the coach feels bad that it hasn't happened yet.
Games like Sunday night's 97-93 win at Orlando are only likely to make him ponder even deeper about giving the 6-foot-6 athlete more playing time.
Given some rare action with the game on the line, Burks gave the dragging Jazz a much-needed jolt. Thanks in large part to Burks' enthusiastic efforts, Utah turned what looked to be a blowout into a competitive contest.
"That's my mindset — always on attack," Burks said. "That's how I play. That's how I got here, so I'm going to keep doing that."
Benefiting from Burks' aggressive and active attitude, the Jazz followed suit as a 16-point deficit became a one-point game by halftime.
"A-Bull, Alec, he played well," Foye said. "It was a back-to-back, guys out there (were) a little sluggish, and he came in and he (brought) us that energy. He helped to get us to where we are. He was a big part of this win."
Burks' stats Sunday weren't exactly eye-popping: eight points on 3-for-7 shooting, three assists, two rebounds, one steal, one turnover.
There was one major exception. The Jazz outscored the Magic by 17 points when Burks was on the court for 20:25. The wings who played less because of his performance were on the other end of the spectrum, with Marvin Williams logging a minus-10 in 17:14 and DeMarre Carroll registering a minus-9 in only 4:49.
"It feels great," he said about the extra playing time, "and I think it is going to help my development."
Opportunities, however, have been limited for Burks. He hasn't even gotten off the bench in 15 games, receiving a DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach's Decision) before a slew of zeros on the boxscores.
"I can't call that," Burks said, referring to his playing time. "You've got to be prepared. It's your job."
Burks has only hit double figures in playing minutes seven times this season, topped by Sunday's 20-minute outing. All but two of those games were blowouts.
Despite offering occasional bursts of excellence, Burks has struggled with playing out of control and forcing shots while averaging 3.9 points in 14 appearances. He's only shooting 37.3 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from 3-point territory and 47.1 percent from the free-throw line.
Conversely, Foye has been the Jazz's best 3-point shooter all year. Carroll has provided the team with an unquantifiable amount of hustle and defensive effort. Williams and Hayward have had some ups and downs at the small forward spot, but they've been more reliable in their stints than Burks has been in his spotty chances.
So far, Corbin has opted for the safer route of going with the more established wings instead of allowing Burks to grow on the job. He did admit after Sunday's game that is up for debate.
"Always. It's a team. Everybody on this team is an asset for us and we look to use guys at different times and when you get your opportunity you want to make the most of it," Corbin said. "The guys that came in tonight I thought they made the most of their opportunity, so we'll look at it going forward."
Mo Williams' thumb injury could open up more minutes for guards in Utah, which hosts Golden State tonight at EnergySolutions Arena.
Something Burks said about Sunday's team comeback will continue to drive his personal motivation: "When you're fighting and you're working hard, things will work out your way."
Or fans will continue to clamor for the backup QB.
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