Utah Jazz: Trey Burke soaks up experience of a lifetime in New Orleans with old friends

Published: Friday, Feb. 14 2014 10:30 p.m. MST

Team Hill's Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, right, moves the ball against Team Webber's Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz during the Rising Star NBA All Star Challenge Basketball game, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in New Orleans.


NEW ORLEANS — If the old TV show “This Is Your Life” was to do a reboot, it could’ve picked Friday for Trey Burke.

Before his team began its morning practice for the Rising Stars Challenge, Burke was hanging out at All-Star Weekend flanked by two of his closest friends.

On his left: Jared Sullinger, his childhood pal and high school teammate.

On his right: Tim Hardaway Jr., his college pal and Michigan teammate.

In the middle: One happy Utah Jazz player, whose hoops dreams are playing out in real life, just like the conversations he used to have while growing up with Sullinger in Columbus, Ohio, and while tearing it up with the Wolverines with Hardaway for two years in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“I think it’s kind of funny,” Sullinger said, “because we all talked about being in the NBA and making it to All-Star weekend, and now we’re here.”

All the more fun that they ended up on the same side.

“It’s real surreal,” Burke said. “It’s great.”

Burke and his two buddies from different eras were teammates together for the first time Friday night in an entertaining but defenseless showdown.

The Jazz rookie playmaker had a rough night with just six points on 3-of-12 shooting. He also dished out six assists in Team Webber’s 142-136 loss to Team Hill at Smoothie King Center.

Hardaway poured in 36 points after getting in a fun second-half shootout with Dion Waiters (31 points), and Sullinger contributed 13 points and two blocked shots.

“Dion Waiters and Tim Hardaway put on a show,” Burke said. “That’s what it’s about: All-Star game, those two going at it. Obviously, I hate losing (and) I could have played better, but those two, that’s all we needed to see tonight. It was a great performance for them.”

Weber State product Damian Lillard began his five-event weekend with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists in a game-high 30 minutes and MVP Andre Drummond had a monster showing with 30 points and 25 rebounds in the win.

Burke will remember the experience more than the statistics or outcome.

And, not surprisingly, a few stories came up when old friends reunited.

“There are a lot of stories,” Sullinger said. “Some can be said and some cannot.”

Also not surprisingly, the stories they shared involved competition, including against one another.

Sullinger fondly remembers getting the early edge in one-on-one competitions and occasionally getting Burke mad by calling him by his given name "Alfonso" instead of his lifelong nickname "Trey." Burke would often get the last laugh because the Celtics big man admitted, “I couldn’t really keep up with Trey.”

Sully also smiled while recounting how the young Ohio kids would play a game in which they had to name different NBA players from different eras to kill time while traveling around the AAU circuit.

“We played so many games,” Sullinger said. “We filled our minds up with the NBA, so much that we wanted to play in the NBA.”

Burke remembers those pick-up games at his next-door neighbor’s house. He also smiled while telling about a different game they’d play at his house when they were 12 or 13. For that one-on-one competition, they’d put a bucket in the basement and then they’d battle against each other, dribble on the carpet and try to score with a rubber ball.

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