Utah Jazz: Jazz teammates, Damian Lillard like poise of rookie point guard Trey Burke
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
LAS VEGAS — Trey Burke’s summer struggles have been well-documented.
The national player of the year went 1 for 12 in his Utah Jazz debut two weeks ago.
The point guard who led Michigan to the 2013 NCAA championship game in April missed 18 of 19 3-point attempts and only shot 24 percent in his first four games with his new team three months later.
The ESPY award finalist for best male college athlete never found an offensive rhythm against guys who were bigger, quicker and more seasoned than most college athletes he outplayed so often.
Derrick Favors’ reaction to all of that?
Blah, blah, blah.
OK, the Jazz power forward, who watched Burke and Utah play in Florida on TV, didn’t exactly say that.
“That don’t worry me, because I had a tough summer league too,” Favors said this week while participating in a Team USA minicamp. “His shot was off, but everybody’s shot will be off.”
Favors has never met Burke or even talked to him, but he saw enough of his new point guard’s play with the Wolverines to be excited for the future pick-and-roll pairing. He’s confident the player Utah traded up to get on draft night will have his confidence restored when the team begins preparing for the 2013-14 season.
“Hopefully, he’s in the gym working on it, getting his mind right,” said Favors, who’s sounding more and more like a team leader. “I think he’ll be ready for the season.”
Favors isn’t the only one who won’t let a rough first Jazz impression dampen enthusiasm for Burke’s potential in Utah.
Gordon Hayward, also participating with USA Basketball, liked the poise he saw from Burke even while his shot was off.
“It didn’t seem like he got rattled too much," he said during a team visit in Orlando, "and that's definitely a good sign.”
“We’ll get him better there,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin added. “He’s going to be a good player in this league for us.”
One player who’s curious to see that development is also a guy whom Burke would be wise to emulate.
Just a year ago, Damian Lillard was in a similar position — first point guard drafted, high expectations after a sensational college career, picked up by a young team in a transitional period and lots of minutes (likely) to be played as a rookie.
“I know that he was big time at Michigan. He could really score the ball in college, nice range on his shot, pretty good playmaker, really good at changing speeds,” Lillard said. “But it’s an adjustment coming to the next level.”
Lillard got off on the right foot with a strong summer showing in 2012, so that helped boost his confidence from the get-go and put him on a path of success that he calls “surreal.”
Not only was the Weber State standout named the NBA Rookie of the Year for 2012-13 after averaging 19.0 points and 6.5 assists with Portland, but Lillard was also invited to participate with USA Basketball alongside talented, young point guards like Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Ty Lawson.
“I knew that I had to make it to the NBA first,” Lillard said after Wednesday’s practice at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. “Then I knew I had to be good enough to play in the NBA. Then I had to be successful in the NBA to have this opportunity, period. ... It all happened fast.”
Some believe Burke is on the fast track, too.
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