Utah Jazz suffer big loss as rookie Trey Burke breaks finger on shooting hand
SALT LAKE CITY — The starting lineup many people anticipated would take the court this season for the Utah Jazz made its preseason debut Saturday night.
“It didn’t last long,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin lamented.
Unfortunately, the group of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter might not play together again for a while, either.
In just his third preseason start, Burke suffered a broken finger on his shooting hand in the first half of the Jazz’s 106-74 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at EnergySolutions Arena.
“It’s a significant blow for us,” Corbin said.
How long of a significant blow remains to be seen.
The rookie point guard’s broken right index finger will be re-evaluated by a hand specialist Monday to determine the best course of action. X-rays at halftime in the training room revealed a fracture.
“Obviously, it’s not something I wanted,” Burke said in the locker room after the game. “But I’ve never really been an injury-prone type of guy, so I’ll just try to stay positive through a time like this. It’s a minor setback right now.”
Burke jammed his finger into Clipper guard Chris Paul while throwing a pass midway through the first quarter. The first-year pro immediately winced and grabbed his hand before intentionally fouling Paul to stop the clock and sub himself out.
“It looked pretty bad when I looked at it,” Burke said. “We popped it back in place.”
The 2013 NCAA player of the year left the arena with Jazz trainer Gary Briggs and had his right index finger taped to his middle finger while in the tunnel behind the team bench. The Michigan product briefly returned to action but remained in the training room in the second half.
“I wanted to get back out there and help the team win,” Burke said.
It quickly became obvious to him that dribbling, passing and shooting with his right hand were too painful at that point, and he admitted that L.A. guard Darren Collison picked up on it, too.
“I tired to come back in and play on it, but it was just a little too sore, so Coach sat me out,” Burke said. “It wasn’t worth it. It’s a preseason game. Obviously, we’re trying to get into the flow of things. We’re trying to come together as a team. I just think it was just the right decision to sit it out (in the second half).”
The injury to Utah’s prized offseason acquisition — picked up in a draft-day trade with Minnesota — puts more pressure on another summer addition. Veteran point guard John Lucas III started the second half and has played the bulk of backup minutes in the preseason behind Burke.
“He brings first and foremost just leadership,” Burke said of his new mentor. “He’s played pretty much everywhere. He’s able to knock down shots. He’s able to get guys going, get guys in the right spots. We have no doubts what he can do.”
Lucas, who led Utah in scoring in Tuesday’s preseason-opening win over Golden State, finished Saturday’s blowout loss with 11 points, three turnovers and zero assists.
The 30-year-old’s main concern was focused on his injured teammate getting a “speedy recovery.”
“It’s a minor setback for a major comeback,” Lucas said. “The young fellow’s going to fight through it. We’ve got some of the best trainers and doctors in the NBA. We all got his back and we’re all supporting him.”
Depending on how long Burke’s recovery will last, the Jazz could be forced to look elsewhere for point guard depth. Former Iona standout Scott Machado has been the third point guard in the preseason, but he’s with the team on a nonguaranteed contract.
The Jazz, Corbin pointed out, used Burks, a natural shooting guard, as a playmaker at times last season. Who knows, perhaps the team could even look to bring back free agent playmaker Jamaal Tinsley. Utah has a fourth point guard on its 20-deep roster in late camp addition Lester Hudson, who’s seen limited time so far.
“We’ll put our heads together (Sunday),” Corbin said.
The Jazz were trailing 17-11 when Burke was injured.
Things quickly unraveled for the home team, which lost a blowout against a superior Western Conference team with a star point guard in consecutive nights following Friday’s 96-86 setback to Portland in Boise.
The Clippers hit for a blistering 55.1 percent compared to the Jazz’s 36.1 percent shooting night.
The much-anticipated starting lineup struggled for the most part, with Favors only scoring two points on 1-for-7 shooting, Hayward missing 8 of 12 shots, Kanter scoring just four with six boards and Burke going 1 for 6 for two points with four assists. Burks was the top scoring starter with 12 points, while Richard Jefferson topped the team with 13 points.
Clipper backup big man Byron Mullens led all scorers with 15 points. BYU product Brandon Davies also gave L.A. a boost off the bench with nine points on three 3-pointers.
All of that, of course, was insignificant compared to Burke's injury situation.
"It’s the NBA. You’ve got to adjust," Corbin said. "We’re working a lot things out, and we knew we’d have to. This is another obstacle for us and we’ll put our heads together and see what we have, where we go from here."
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