Utah Jazz: Trey Burke soaks up experience of a lifetime in New Orleans with old friends
“We would always put ourselves in situations, down three with 10 seconds or something. If you were down, you had to find a way to come back and win,” Burke said. “We were competing. I think that pushed our vision even farther. It was fun. It kinda seems like a kiddie game, but we was really going at it.”
Sullinger, a playful 6-9, 260-pound beast, leaned over and tickled Burke’s ear while the 6-1 Jazz player explained their basement game.
“C’mon, man,” Burke said, flicking Sullinger’s hand away. “What’s up?”
For a moment, it was like Burke was a fourth-grader getting teased by his fifth-grade friend.
“One thing about Trey,” Sullinger said, “he never changes.”
Neither, of course, does their banter about who’d win the most as kids.
“I would win most of the time,” Burke said. “He’d win sometimes.”
Sullinger scoffed. “You would never win most of the time.”
Friday’s game wasn’t representative of the Trey Burke both Sullinger and Hardaway played with back in the day.
Sullinger and Burke were teammates going back to when the Jazz player was in the fourth grade, and they enjoyed and earned success from the AAU circuit, to their middle school team and at Northland High School.
Hardaway and Burke led Michigan to its first Final Four since 1993 before falling to Louisville. The athletic Knicks guard pointed out big buckets — not the ones in a basement — that Burke would regularly make in college, including an overtime-forcing 3-pointer against Kansas during the Wolverine’s Sweet 16 win and a key layup he made over Sullinger against Ohio State.
“Trey is not a big-shot taker, he’s a big-shot maker,” Hardaway said. “He wants the ball in his hands in those situations. We understood that. Hopefully, his team understands that now.”
The Jazz do. Just last Saturday, Burke sank a game-clinching jumper with 24.2 seconds remaining in a 94-89 win over the Miami Heat.
“You’ve got to have heart,” Hardaway said. “You can’t shy away from the moment and he doesn’t do that.”
It was Burke, who'll compete in the Skills Challenge Saturday night with Lillard, who appreciated how his college teammate did that Friday. Hardaway hit 12 of 23 shots, including 7 of 16 from 3-point range, against the red-hot Waiters (10-14, 4-6).
“It was exciting to me,” Burke said.
The New York shooting guard was thrilled that he and Burke were able to catch up for about 30 minutes at the team hotel Thursday night, just chatting about the Jazz and Knicks and Michigan and whatever else old friends talk about.
It was just for a day, but Hardaway loved having Burke on his team again.
“He was a great teammate. He always did his work, always got there on time, always put the team first,” Hardaway said. “Most importantly, he knew how to speak to people when he was out there on the court. He knew how to encourage people. That’s what made him a true captain.”
Their shared support, laughter, hard work and shared memories, good and bad, are what keeps Burke and his buddies bonded as true friends.
“It was great just to see their families, to get back around them,” Burke said. “We’re never really around each other anymore. It’s great. It’s an experience that we’ll always remember. We’re going to continue to enjoy it until Sunday.”
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