Utah Jazz: Jazz rookie Trey Burke invited to participate in NBA Skills Challenge during All-Star weekend
Tony Gutierrez, AP
DALLAS — Trey Burke’s schedule won’t be nearly as packed as Damian Lillard’s during All-Star weekend, but he’ll be busier than originally planned.
In addition to participating in the Rising Stars Challenge next Friday, the Utah Jazz point guard has been invited to take part in the Skills Challenge during Saturday night festivities.
“Just to have this opportunity to play and be a part of All-Star Weekend, it means a lot,” Burke said. “I’m looking forward to the whole experience.”
Lillard is as well, no doubt. And he’ll have quite the experience. The former Weber State star is competing in a record five events: the All-Star Game, the 3-point contest, the dunk contest, the Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Challenge.
“He’s a competitor,” Burke said of Lillard. “I don’t blame him.”
Part of the fun for Burke will be reuniting with two former teammates and playing for a Michigan legend in the Rising Stars game. The rookie was drafted by Fab Five member Chris Webber, one of the game’s coaches.
Burke didn’t watch the live draft on TNT, but the 2013 NCAA player of the year was excited to hear that the ex-Wolverine picked him.
“The chemistry should already be there just from being a Michigan man,” he said.
Burke’s Michigan teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. (Knicks) and the Jazz player’s high school teammate Jared Sullinger (Celtics) were also picked to play for Team Webber.
“Usually we’re competing against each other,” Burke said. “For that one day, we’ll be a part of the same team. We should all have fun.”
Team Webber also includes Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Kelly Olynyk (Boston), Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn), Steven Adams (Oklahoma City), Victor Oladipo (Orlando) and Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia).
Lillard, who’ll have one heck of a weekend in New Orleans, was the first pick of Team (Grant) Hill. Others on that squad: Dion Waiters (Cleveland), Harrison Barnes (Golden State), Terrence Jones (Houston), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto), Bradley Beal (Washington) and Phoenix’s Miles Plumlee, who’s replacing Pero Antic (Atlanta).
Burke will team up with Lillard on Saturday night during the Skills Challenge, which has been revamped to pit four teams of two players against each other. Other teams include: Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson; Carter-Williams and Oladipo; and Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar Derozan.
Burke called it “an honor” to be in that competition, which Lillard won last year.
“Guys that’s usually in that challenge are some of the top guards in the NBA,” Burke said. “So just to be a young guard and be able to be a part of that challenge as well, it means a lot. It goes to show what hard work can get you. I know I’ve got a lot of areas to continue to improve on and I’m going to continue to do that.”
NO SLAM DUNK: Jazz forward Jeremy Evans didn’t act too bummed about not being invited back to the Slam Dunk Contest. He was the 2012 champ and finished behind Terrence Ross last year.
“I’m sure everybody loves new faces,” Evans said. “I’ve been twice and had fun. They’ll show it on TV, so I’ll be watching.”
This year’s contest will be between the Eastern and Western Conferences with freestyle and head-to-head battles, but no individual champ will be crowned next Saturday at newly named Smoothie King Center.
The dunk teams include Lillard, Barnes and Kings rookie Ben McLemore for the West and Ross, Paul George and John Wall for the East.
“I got beat by Terrence Ross,” Evans said. “So I’m going to keep my eyes on him, check him out.”
FUTURE DUNKER?: Burke had a somewhat surprising response when jokingly asked if he hoped to follow in Lillard’s high-flying footsteps and participate in the dunk contest.
“Hopefully,” he said. “When I get used to this NBA schedule.”
Burke said he lacks the lift he had at Michigan, something he’s trying to get back through stretching and simple perseverance.
“Last year in college, I felt like I had so much more legs,” Burke said. “Right now, I feel like I don’t even have legs.”
MISUNDERSTOOD: New Jazz forward Malcolm Thomas puzzled some Jazz fans Friday afternoon when he tweeted, “Well I guess the search continues ” He left some wondering if he’d been cut less than two weeks after being claimed off waivers by the Jazz.
Thomas, cut by the Spurs two weeks ago, clarified his tweet before Friday’s game: ”Sorry guys didn't mean to worry you, I couldn't find the shoes I was looking for. Lol”
Those shoes, by the way, were the new LeBron James Nike basketball shoes.
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