Utah Jazz: Trey Burke brimming with confidence after getting time on the court

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21 2013 10:34 p.m. MST

DALLAS — For almost six weeks, Trey Burke could only be a well-dressed spectator as his teammates played.

They struggled on the court, losing their first eight games and 11 of 12 without him.

Burke observed and felt their pain.

Jazz point guards John Lucas III, signed-and-waived Jamaal Tinsley and D-League call-up Diante Garrett floundered and flailed at times.

Burke saw their every move, took mental notes, soaked in all of the knowledge one possibly can from the row behind the bench and waited patiently and worked diligently as his surgically repaired fractured right finger went through the healing process.

Other top playmakers, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Jeremy Lin and Deron Williams, took it to the Jazz.

Burke looked on and learned.

Some Jazz fans and NBA observers criticized the organization for the draft-day trade to acquire Burke instead of selecting No. 11 pick Michael Carter-Williams.

Yeah, he noticed that, too.

Now that his NBA debut has finally happened, Burke believes the watch-and-learn process was a good thing. Just like Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and coach Tyrone Corbin, Hall of Famer John Stockton and Warriors bench boss Mark Jackson all agreed would be the case.

“I think having an opportunity to watch from the sideline helped me out a lot, helped my pace out a lot to where I’m not just going up and down and up and down, knowing how to pick and choose my spots,” Burke said. “I’ve said that a lot, but I think that’s really helped my game out a lot.”

The sample size is small — 12 minutes in the 105-98 loss to New Orleans, to be exact — but it appears Burke has done a lot more than just watching to improve his game since July. His showing in Orlando in summer league, was, well, not exactly worth writing home about, at least in terms of how he shot the ball, ran the Jazz offense and looked completely overwhelmed.

Though he hadn’t played since Oct. 12 when he broke his finger, the 6-foot-1 Burke looked smooth, quick, efficient, polished and confident while totaling 11 points, one assist, one rebound and zero turnovers against the Pelicans.

“I think the biggest thing is not forcing things, going out there and picking and choosing my spots,” Burke said. “It feels good knowing that teammates have my trust, coaches have my trust. They’re going to allow me to play within the pick-and-roll, get guys going. That’s my natural position, being a PG, getting guys going, looking for my shots. It’s always good to know that you have the confidence.”

Burke’s first NBA bucket was a burst down the drive for a left-handed finish moments after he entered. His first assist was a nicely executed dish on a well-run pick-and-roll, setting up a Derrick Favors basket.

The 21-year-old looked much more like the 2013 NCAA Player of the Year than the shell-shocked rookie who missed 18 of 19 3-pointers shortly after the Jazz gave Minnesota two first-round picks to acquire him.

Corbin hasn’t had much to smile about this season, but this was one personal display that brightened all of Jazzland.

“From the summer to just before we started camp and in camp and again in exhibition, he’s grown,” Corbin said.

That process of progression has continued in the five weeks following his surgery in which Burke had pins inserted into his shooting hand.

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