Whatever Ty wants out of me, that’s what I’m going to do, no matter what. I live for this game. When the opportunity comes, I’m going to step up. I ain’t shying away from nothing. —John Lucas III, Utah Jazz guard
SALT LAKE CITY — Jazz rookie Trey Burke didn’t know the severity of his finger injury after he left Saturday’s game for the first time.
Two things he did know?
For starters, his shooting hand was in a bunch of pain, which makes sense considering his right index finger had just been fractured after he jammed it into Chris Paul while passing the basketball.
That leads to his second certainty. Despite the discomfort, the rookie point guard was raring to return.
“I wanted to get back out there and help the team win,” he said.
Burke did that briefly Saturday before cutting his night short and heading to the training room for X-rays. Now as the team awaits an appointment with a hand specialist Monday, it remains to be seen how soon the ninth pick will get his next chance to get back out there again.
Burke’s camp is hopeful the 2013 NCAA player of the year will be back in three to six weeks, although even that quickest-return timeline would have him out for the 2013-14 season opener on Oct. 30.
There are some, however, who believe Burke’s injury will take at least six weeks to heal. If the specialist recommends surgery, the point guard could be out even longer.
“It’s a downer for us,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said about the news that overshadowed Saturday’s 106-74 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“We’ve got scouts out there. They’ll see what’s available. We’ve got some guys here. We played Alec (Burks) there for a little while last year.”
Until Burke returns, the starting point guard role will be handled by veteran John Lucas III, one of the Jazz’s offseason acquisitions. He most recently played in Toronto but was considered a solid backup to Derrick Rose in Chicago before that Canadian stint.
The 30-year-old Lucas, who’s shown an offensive spark this preseason, said his new job is to simply “hold it down” until Burke is back.
“Whatever Ty wants out of me, that’s what I’m going to do, no matter what,” Lucas said. “I live for this game. When the opportunity comes, I’m going to step up. I ain’t shying away from nothing.”
Lucas is also firmly in Burke’s corner. He feels horrible about getting a bigger role with the Jazz due to his new teammate’s misfortune.
“It’s difficult. It really is. My heart goes out to him because you know he wants to be out there,” Lucas said. “He was just now getting into his rhythm. He was feeling comfortable, feeling the flow of the game, how fast it’s going to be, the intensity.”
Lucas believes Burke can draw on the experiences he had against three of the NBA’s top point guards — Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and Chris Paul, albeit briefly — during a tough exhibition initiation.
“One thing about Trey, he’s going to go in and watch film,” Lucas said. “When he comes back, he’s going to be ready.”
Burke said his biggest priority right now is to get his finger back to full strength. For now, he’ll keep pressure and ice on the finger, which is wrapped up in a splint.
The young NBA player, who turns 21 next month, did show how gutsy he is by returning to play after having his fingers taped in the tunnel behind the Jazz bench Saturday night.
Burke said he doesn’t think he did any extra damage by returning, but he remained in pain by the time he spoke to reporters an hour later. He pointed to the area of the finger between the two lower knuckles while explaining where he’d been hurt, but even that was a guessing game.
“It’s really hard to explain where it’s at,” he said, “because pretty much my whole finger is hurting right now.”
The Jazz have two NBA hopeful point guards on their preseason roster, including former Iona star Scott Machado, who’s been Utah’s third point guard off the bench in all three games so far. The 6-1 guard was waived after making six regular-season appearances in Houston last year. He then got picked up by Golden State and saw playing time in five playoff games last spring.
Tennessee-Martin product Lester Hudson, who’s played for four NBA teams since 2009, is the other point guard on the roster.
The Jazz are also exploring options — from possible trades to free agent signings — to shore up the point guard depth chart.
Burke’s injury gave Corbin a flashback to the beginning of his NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs in 1985. His debut was delayed after he twisted his knee in the exhibition season.3 comments on this story
“It will throw you for a loop, but he can learn by watching,” Corbin said of Burke. “We’ll see where it goes and how fast we can get him back on the floor. There are other ways to learn.”
Jokingly asked how his left-handed shot is, Burke cracked a grin and replied, “I rely on my right more.” He’s also going to rely on remaining in a good frame of mind while he’s out.
“Obviously, I’ve never dealt with an injury like this,” Burke said. “It’s kind of new to me. I’m just trying to stay as positive as possible.”