Utah Jazz: Raul Neto gets to shine while Trey Burke observes from the pine
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
ORLANDO, Fla. — For the first two summer league games, Raul Neto sat on the Utah Jazz bench and watched Trey Burke and his teammates play.
On Wednesday, the roles were reversed between the Jazz's draft-day acquisitions.
The results were as surprising as the move.
Neto, who's under contract with his Spanish team, still hasn't actually been able to practice with his NBA squad. The 21-year-old Brazilian had been a sideline observer from the time the Jazz's minicamp opened a week ago until being cleared to participate in the Orlando Pro Summer League on Tuesday.
It didn't show when he got his first chance to play Wednesday.
"I thought he did a great job. For having not practiced at all, it tells you a little bit about his mentality," Jazz assistant Sidney Lowe said of Neto. "He sat over there and watched and listened to everything that was going on in practice, and he was able to come in and run the plays.
"He knew every call. He knew the action. He knew where guys were supposed to be. He knew the timing. That speaks volumes."
Judging Neto's debut in Utah's 98-69 win over Brooklyn's summer squad, you might have thought he was the NCAA player of the year.
He isn't. That well-earned distinction belongs to Burke, who was given the day off by the Jazz coaching staff after shooting 22.2 percent from the field with only seven assists and six turnovers in two previous games.
"It's been a long time since I haven't played in a game," said Burke, who led Michigan to the 2013 NCAA championship game. "It wasn't hard because I knew I wasn't being punished."
Rather, Lowe cited multiple reasons why the Jazz had the ninth-overall pick the organization traded up to obtain sit this one out.
Coaches wanted to give him rest and to allow Neto and Jerel McNeal play.
The staff wanted Burke to watch from the bench so he could see the quicker pace, observe plays develop and get a feel for timing.
They also wanted him to sit next to Jazz assistant Brad Jones and be able to learn throughout the game.
"I think," Lowe said, "it was huge for him to sit back this game."
Burke, who hopes to be an NBA All-Star, let alone a summer league starter, looked a bit fidgety on the bench, even gnawing at his nails at times. But he also engaged in multiple discussions with Jones, cheered when his teammates did well, and said he took the educational opportunity in stride.
"It was good for me," Burke said, "to learn from a different perspective, learning from the bench and talking to the coaches, just trying to pick their brains from the bench. I didn't complain with it."
Despite what onlookers suggest, Burke claimed he hasn't felt frustrated or overwhelmed by his first NBA experience.
"I wouldn't say it's overwhelming because I felt like I'm picking it up pretty good," he said. "I'm just trying to get used to the whole offense, the whole defense, the terminology as well. It's different from college now, playing for the Jazz."
One thing Burke saw while getting some tutor time on the pine was a smooth performance from the guy picked 38 spots after him in the 2013 draft.
Neto, picked 47th by Atlanta before being traded to Utah last month, scored seven points with four rebounds and three assists. His comfort level transcended the stats. The 6-1 playmaker showed a surprisingly strong command of the offense and looked poised under pressure in his 18 minutes.
Part of that comes from his natural talent, which was on display when he followed a tricky crossover dribble with a floater off the glass for his best highlight. It also helped, no doubt, that Neto has played two seasons for Lagun Aro GBC in the ACB Spanish league, which is considered to be on a higher talent level than the NCAA.
"Sometimes, I had to do something you don't practice," he said, trying to explain how he fared so well without working out previously with the Jazz. "You see a guy open, you have to pass. That’s basketball."
Both point guards spoke highly of each other following the Jazz's third game in this weeklong tournament on the Amway Center's practice court.
"I knew nothing about him before, but he's a very good player, has a nice shot," Neto said of Burke. "I think he has leadership with the team. He's a very good player."
Likewise, Burke complimented Neto, who hit 3 of 4 field goals.
"He played really well today. He's a really a good guard that can shoot the ball, get into the paint and get his teammates involved," Burke said. "We have confidence in him. We knew what he can do on the court."
They do now, at least.
It remains up in the air whether or not Neto will actually play for Utah this season. He still has a year left on his contract in Spain, and Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said the organization will "let nature take its course" before deciding whether to pursue a buyout ahead of fall camp.
"If I have to choose, I want to play NBA — but it's not my choice," Neto said. "I have to wait. I have to talk with my agent (and see) what's going to be better for me, because I don't want to be here and don't play. I want to play."
Burke feels the same way.
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