MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Trey Burke had no problem identifying Michael Jordan in the Time Warner Cable Arena tunnel hallway after Saturday night’s game.
“I knew it was him from behind,” Burke said. “Six-six, bald-headed.”
The underwear spokesman, no doubt, is the most easily recognizable owner in the NBA.
Turns out, the Hall of Fame basketball player also recognized Burke. Six-one, full head of hair.
Moments after the rookie point guard had his latest big-time performance during the Jazz’s 88-85 win at Charlotte, Burke acted like a kid who’d met his hero while recounting a quick conversation he’d just had with Jordan.
Burke was headed from the visitors locker room to the arena for a TV interview when he saw the tall man with the famous clean-shaven head.
“He was in front of me, so I called his name. I said, ‘MJ!’” Burke recalled. “He came up to me. He called me ‘TB’ and I was kind of like, you know.”
Kind of like giddy, star-struck, honored.
“That’s a guy, like (Allen) Iverson,” Burke continued. “Those are those two guys I grew up just trying to pattern my game after.”
Although Burke obviously has a ways to go before reaching MJ's legendary level or AI's star status, the rookie continues to have impressive moments during his first NBA season.
While his poise is uncanny for a young player and he has an explosive offensive game that's boosted the Jazz lineup since returning from his broken finger, consistency has evaded Burke.
The playmaker had a particularly interesting roller-coaster trip leading up to Monday night's pre-Christmas road swing finale in Memphis.
Burke played out of his mind in Jazz wins at Charlotte (20 points, four assists, three rebounds) and Orlando (30 points, eight assists, seven rebounds). But he was almost a no-show against the two-time defending champs in Miami and against Atlanta on Friday, scoring a combined five points on 2-of-16 shooting.
Even while he’s had some misses along with the hits, NBA coaches are being forced to game plan according to Burke’s strengths.
"Since he’s been healthy, he’s changed that team," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said last week. "Once he got healthy and he got into the mix, it’s not a coincidence that everything starts to look a little bit more organized. That’s what happens with very good guard play.
"He has a very promising future, but that future is already happening right now."
While his five games with 20 or more points have been impressive and his assists are piling up, another aspect of Burke’s game has been the most impressive.
It’s what he’s not doing that is almost mind-boggling, especially for a rookie.
Burke simply doesn’t turn the ball over.
The Jazz starter didn’t cough up the ball once in 26 minutes at Charlotte. That was the sixth time he hasn’t had a turnover in his 18 pro games. Even as he struggled in Atlanta and Miami, Burke only bobbled the ball away once each night.
His assists-to-turnovers ratio of 3.87-to-1 is fourth-best in the NBA. Clippers star Chris Paul leads the league with his 4.47 ratio.
Burke admitted he checks his statistics for assists and turnovers “all the time.”
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