SALT LAKE CITY — For the last couple of years, Alec Burks has been patiently biding his time, hoping for an opportunity to someday shed his role as a bit player and become a full-fledged NBA performer, one who's in the Utah Jazz rotation playing major minutes every night.
Well, young man, your time has come.
With a rebuilt roster in which Utah's front office shed its older, more experienced players in favor of a much-publicized youth movement, the 22-year-old Burks now stands to step into the Jazz lineup, most likely as their starting shooting guard, and make key contributions on a nightly basis.
It would mark a much more expanded role for the 6-foot-6, third-year guard, but he feels like he's prepared to play such a vital role for the team.
Now, it appears, preparation is about to meet opportunity, and Burks is ready to embrace his new-found role and responsibility with the franchise.
"I take the same approach," Burks said after Tuesday's opening session of training camp. "I feel like I was ready for the role my first two years, but now I'm getting the opportunity so I'm going to take advantage of it.
"I'm excited to play the game of basketball, you know."
Burks' goal this season is to "just get better, improve, get in tip-top shape for the grind, the 82-game grind, and just help my team as much as I can."
Utah coach Tyrone Corbin certainly thinks Burks has worked hard for this opportunity and is ready to seize it along with the other members of the CCKC (Coach Corbin's Kiddie Corps) — Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and rookie point guard Trey Burke.
Hayward is the oldest member of that group, projected to possibly be the Jazz starting five, at the ripe old age of 23.
"I'm excited for him, I really am," Corbin said of Burks. "He along with some of the other young guys, I'm really excited for them being able to be in an expanded role here.
"(Burks) worked his tail off this summer. I thought he made some good strides last year, especially having to put him in the point-guard role some and he started for us at times at the point.
"He's a 2-man naturally, but he's a basketball player," Corbin said. "He's been willing to work this summer, he's worked on his body, his conditioning is up and his IQ basketball-wise has increased, so we're really looking forward to him having a good year."
Over his first two years in the league, there were nights when Burks would find himself buried on the end of Utah's bench and he would barely see the floor. He played sporadically at times and seemed unsure of what his role was.
Then there were those nights when he'd come out and, given an opportunity to display his quickness and athleticism, he'd step into the spotlight and shine brightly.
There were nights like last March in San Antonio, when he scored 14 points in 22 minutes against the Spurs, or that night last season at Milwaukee, when he played a career-high 36 minutes and responded by putting up 19 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals.
Corbin said Burks' biggest improvement may be the mental side of his game.
"Confidence, positive confidence," the Jazz coach said. "You come out of college and you have a chip on your shoulder. He certainly had a chip on his shoulder because he had a lot to prove. He still has a lot to prove to himself and to everybody in this league.
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