Matt Gade, Deseret News
LOS ANGELES — Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke is putting together a solid rookie season, and he's impressed people around the league so much that he's swept the last two Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards for December and January.
And one of his biggest fans is his own coach, Tyrone Corbin, who is mighty proud of the way the former University of Michigan star has handled the imposing challenge of stepping his game up to the next level.
"He's a guy that's willing to put the work in, and we've seen it with us — watching film, talking to the coaches," Corbin said.
"Example the other night: Coach Sidney (Lowe) was sitting down talking to him about watching (Miami's) Ray Allen work, and then fortunately Ray was nice enough once he got done going through his pregame routine, he came over and shared some words with Trey and talked to him about the work that it took and finding out what routine works best for you, and how you get that routine and work it and to continue to be good and get better every year."
Burke, whose clutch jump shot with 24 seconds left was critical in Utah's 94-89 victory over the Heat last Saturday, appreciated the opportunity to chat with Allen, the NBA's all-time career leader in 3-point baskets.
"It was a good conversation," Burke said. "He just talked about routine, getting on a consistent routine early in your career, how it helps you efficiency-wise out there on the court. It's always good talking to a guy like Ray."
Burke is averaging 12.7 points, 5.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and is the first player in Jazz history to win the monthly rookie award more than once. In fact, Karl Malone is the only other Jazzman to be so honored, and he won it just once — back in December 1985.
"It really does," Corbin said when asked if it impresses him how his rookie guard has played during his first NBA season. "The times he's not afraid of those moments at this level — and he hasn't shied away from any thus far — and that's a great indicator that the guy is willing to perform under a lot of pressure.
"And we'll need that as he gets more astute and smarter about the time to take over, when to go and manage the clock. We know that he's a guy you can put the ball in his hands — he's not afraid to take the big shot — so that's a great thing for a young guy to have."
ALL-STAR REPRESENTATIVE: Burke will represent the Jazz in a pair of events during the NBA's annual All-Star weekend being held this coming weekend in New Orleans.
He'll play in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge for "Team Webber" on Friday, when rookies and second-year NBA players will square off, and then he'll join forces with the Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, the former Weber State star, for the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday.
Burke said he isn't sure what to expect during All-Star weekend and just wants to enjoy the moment.
"It's my first All-Star game and I don't really know what to expect, so I'm just going to try and have fun with the whole experience," Burke said. "My family will be there; I'm sure a lot of people I know will be down there in New Orleans, so I'm looking forward to it and I'm gonna try and have fun with it."
Coach Corbin was glad to see his rookie guard receive that recognition, too.
"I think it's a tremendous honor for him," he said. "I think it's a good opportunity for him to go down there and be around some of his peers and top guys in this game. All the guys there have reached some kind of accomplishment this year, some of the best players in the league, and to be at the All-Star game.
"So the first couple of days, he'll be around the young guys that's doing well to see how those guys work and talk about their experiences, where they can build relationships and learn from each other what kind of work it takes to be successful in this league."
R.J. IS ON THE REBOUND: After struggling through a forgettable season last year with Golden State and getting traded to Utah during the offseason, Jazz forward Richard Jefferson has enjoyed a career resurgence this season.
The 6-foot-7, 13-year NBA veteran battled through injuries and averaged just 3.1 points and 10 minutes a game last season with the Warriors. Indeed, it looked like his days in the league might be numbered.
But this season, he has started all 50 games for Utah — the only Jazz player to do so — and is averaging 10.1 points and 3 rebounds a game.
What's more, Jefferson currently ranks tied for eighth in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 42.9 percent, and has had 11 games when he's hit at least three shots from beyond the arc.
"I think just being healthy, that was the key," said Jefferson. "Last year, I know people thought I was going to retire and all this and that, I was pretty much done. But last year I was injured. I tore my calf early in the year and I think that's what set off my back not being right.
"As my career has progressed and I've become a little bit less athletic, my 3-point shooting is something that I've definitely focused on, learning from the veterans around me when I was a young kid that having a 3-point shot will make it more difficult to guard you day in and day out."
MARSHALL PLAN: The last time the Jazz faced the Lakers, Kendall Marshall — making his first start for Los Angeles — finished with 20 points and 15 assists in the Lakers' 110-99 win at the Staples Center.
The 6-foot-4 point guard, who formerly spent some time with the Development League's Bakersfield Jam with which the Jazz are now affiliated, is currently shooting 49.4 percent from 3-point range. That would lead the league by a considerable margin, but he has not had enough attempts yet to qualify.
"He's a capable player and we've got to make sure we don't underestimate him," Corbin said. "He's very good on the pick-and-roll. He made some 3-point shots against us — he made one out by the hash mark there — but he's playing very well for them.
"He got a breath of fresh air here and another opportunity in L.A. and he's making the most of it. So we've gotta make sure we keep him out of the lane area and not let him pick us apart on the pick-and-roll."
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