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Utah Jazz notebook: Coach Tyrone Corbin sees potential in Alec Burks at point guard

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5 2013 11:20 p.m. MST

Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap (24) and Denver Nuggets center Kosta Koufos go after a rebound during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Jack Dempsey, AP

DENVER — Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin gave a somewhat surprising answer when asked to assess Alec Burks' grasp of being an NBA point guard, a task the second-year player will presumably be given more often in Mo Williams' six-week-or-so absence.

Interestingly, Corbin did not focus on the pros and cons of a Burks-led Jazz offense.

"I thought defensively he's getting better," Corbin said in the wake of the former Colorado standout being handed ballhandling responsibilities for a good chunk of the second quarter Friday in Phoenix.

"He has to learn defensively how to play guys, stay between the guys, sometimes pressure the guy."

Corbin believes it's tougher for younger NBA players to get the hang of playing point guard from a defensive standpoint than it is for them to learn and implement the intricacies involved in running a complex pro offense.

"There is a lot of responsibility on the defensive point guard," Corbin said. "When you take a young guy like Alec or even a Randy (Foye) or Gordon (Hayward), point guards naturally, then it is a difficult adjustment at times."

Corbin liked what he saw from Burks on the offensive end in the Jazz win Friday. Combined with what he's seen in practice, the Jazz coach said he feels comfortable putting the 6-foot-6 guard in the playmaker position more often in the future if deemed necessary.

Burks' number is most likely to be called, Corbin added, when opponents go into a zone defense and the Jazz need some offensive punch from their point guard.

"Offensively, we can put the ball in his hands," Corbin said. "You look at the play he made … at the end of the half (a reverse layup Friday). Not a lot of guys can make that play for us — go under the basket and make a reverse shot — like he did.

"He gives us something on the offensive end," Corbin added, "but we've got to make sure he grows on the defensive end also."

Burks cracked a slight smile when asked about that burst to the basket he made in Phoenix on Friday, giving Utah some momentum heading into half of the 87-80 win.

"Everybody know I can get to the basket," he said, "so it was good that it could get in."

Burks is certain people are less aware of his point guard abilities — mostly because the bulk of his playmaker minutes happened in summer league and preseason.

He quickly claimed to be "real comfortable" running the Jazz offense.

"I used to play point before I hit a growth spurt, so it's nothing new to me playing point," he said. "I don't think most people have seen me play it, but I can play it."

Burks played 17 minutes in Saturday's 110-91 loss, but he didn’t get any point guard time with the game on the line.

INJURY UPDATE: Jazz center Enes Kanter has missed the past two games with a sprained right ankle, but the 6-11 big man is optimistic about his chances of playing Monday against the Mavericks.

"I hope so," he said. "I'm going to try to practice (Sunday)."

Kanter remained in the training room for treatment throughout the Jazz's blowout loss. He might have been the only one on the team who saw positive results.

"After the game, I just looked at it (the ankle) and it's so much better," said Kanter, who's been sporting a walking boot since injuring himself at the end of Wednesday's win over Minnesota. "The swelling is going away. It's so much better."

COMPLIMENT FROM KARL: Denver coach George Karl has long been an admirer of Jerry Sloan and his system, and before Saturday's game he said the Hall of Famer's touch is still visible in this up-and-down Jazz squad.

"I think there's still a lot of Jerry Sloan in what they do. They still run a lot of the same plays," Karl said. "I think they've become more of a low-post offensive team. They were more of a cutting and executing team in the past."

Though Utah is on the outside looking in on the playoff picture right now, Karl wouldn't be surprised if that turned around.

"I thought they had a great year last year," he said, "and I think they're on the cusp of having a really good year this year."

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