Utah Jazz: Trey Burke has rough Jazz debut, but team likes what he's doing
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
ORLANDO, Fla. — As far as first impressions go, Utah Jazz fans might want to hold on to the initial fuzzy feeling they had on draft night when Trey Burke euphoria swept through the Beehive State.
Burke's debut in Jazz gear was, well, very 1-for-12 like.
If trading up with Minnesota to grab the highly touted point guard was the party, Sunday's game at the Orlando Pro Summer League felt like the next morning's cleaning reality check.
The 6-foot-1 guard, whom Utah obtained for the 14th and 21st picks after Minnesota drafted him ninth overall, finished with eight points with 11 misses, seven rebounds and five assists in this summer outing.
"Poor shooting, obviously," said Burke, a 6-foot-1 player who just couldn't get into an offensive rhythm while assessing his first Jazz appearance. "It wasn't my best game, below average to me, but we won so that's all that matters."
Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward, who observed from the bench, cracked a slight grin when asked about Burke's performance in Utah's 69-59 win over Miami.
"It's good to get that first one out of the way," Hayward said. "He didn't shoot the ball extremely well, but that’s first-game jitters."
The Jazz aren't experiencing buyer's-remorse jitters.
In fact, the team has been quite impressed with Burke's performance, demeanor and effort since the Michigan product began training with the Jazz on Wednesday for a four-day minicamp leading up to this weeklong summer league.
"He's had a very good camp," Jazz assistant coach Sidney Lowe said after Sunday's game.
The Jazz coaching staff liked how Burke got the team into the offense, how he remained poised, that he only committed two turnovers in 32 minutes, and the way he constantly talked with teammates.
The shooting wasn't pretty, but Burke has pleased Utah brass with the leadership he's showing and his desire to improve.
"He's telling other guys where they should be. That's really impressive," Lowe said. "It's not a surprise. You can tell he's a point guard."
Though his shots nearly all clanged off the rim, Burke had one particularly sweet drive-and-dish late in the game that resulted in an easy bucket for Utah's other debuting rookie, 7-1 center Rudy Gobert (six points, three blocks). Jazz veteran Jeremy Evans was also the recipient of a Burke assist that led to a dunk.
"He's a good player works hard running the team," Evans said. "I think he's going to be great."
Hayward has seen enough from Burke since arriving in Orlando on Saturday to get excited for teaming up with him in the future.
"You can see when he's out there he's calm," Hayward said. "It didn't seem like he got rattled too much, and that's definitely a good sign."
Another good sign, according to the Jazz?
Burke's no-nonsense approach to learning all complexities involved in being an NBA playmaker.
"That position is so crucial that you can't let it define you by whether you're making shots or not. You’ve got to do all of the other things. I think he'll be fine," Lowe said. "He's a serious young man — something that I really didn't know (before minicamp). He's really serious about the game. He's serious about getting better, and he's going to get better."
Lowe also pointed out that Burke has been an excellent listener. While admittedly getting "a lot thrown at me this week" — offensive sets, defensive calls, player preferences, coaches' wishes — Burke is absorbing what Tyrone Corbin and his staff are telling him.
So far, he's been quick to apply the lessons learned.
This is a process that will need to be repeated many times for Burke to reach the All-Star level the reigning college player of the year is hoping to reach in his NBA career.
"I'm taking everything serious right now. I want to be as good as I can be. I want to unleash all of my potential at this level," Burke said. "I'm trying to listen a lot. I know I don't know everything when it comes to the mental game or the physical game, so I'm just trying to take as much in and try to implement it in to my game as much as possible."
That's why Burke and the Jazz weren't overly distraught about his offensive clunker from the field. In reality, who cares how many shots he made or missed in a summer league exhibition? The bigger question is whether or not he's making progress — or will make progress — toward being a capable point guard who can lead the Jazz into the future with the likes of Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks.
"I feel like he's good player and is going to make us all better," said Burks after exiting Sunday's game with a mild left ankle sprain. "He draws defenses. That makes my life easier, Gordon's life easier, D-Fav and Enes' life easier. I like that about him a lot."
Less than two weeks into his Jazz career, and he's already getting chummy with the rebuilding team's old guys. Give Burke credit for being a smart 20-year-old.
Burke is also smart enough to realize a bad shooting night isn't something to fret over for too long. Next game's Tuesday, by the way.
"It’s not all about scoring, especially in my position. I have to be a leader out there," Burke said. "I have to get guys going as well, just find ways to lead the team to victory. I felt like I did a solid job of that today."
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