You have to play through it, that’s what I’m doing right now. We have seven games left and we know we’re not going to make the playoffs, but we’re still playing for pride. You want to go out there and play with a lot of energy, not lose confidence, not get discouraged and continue to make plays for the team. —Utah Jazz guard Trey Burke
SALT LAKE CITY — During his rookie season, Jazz point guard Trey Burke has enjoyed highs and lows, typical for a first-year player on a struggling team. He’s had his big games (20 points, 12 assists in win at Detroit), highlights such as the game-winning shot against Orlando last month, and he’s also had his share of poor games.
As the Jazz head into Friday night’s game with New Orleans at EnergySolutions Arena, Burke is trying to shake out of a shooting slump (32 of 94 in last eight games) while coming off his poorest two-game stint of the season, scoring just seven total points on 3 of 15 shooting.
It’s been a long season for Burke, who at this time last year was preparing for his Final Four games at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Even missing the first three weeks and 14 games of the season, Burke has still played nearly twice as many games as he did for Michigan last year and it’s taken its toll lately.
“You feel your body and mind get a little tired,’’ he said. “You have to play through it, that’s what I’m doing right now. We have seven games left and we know we’re not going to make the playoffs, but we’re still playing for pride. You want to go out there and play with a lot of energy, not lose confidence, not get discouraged and continue to make plays for the team.’’
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin acknowledges it’s been a roller-coaster ride for Burke as a rookie but he’s been happy with his play overall.
“He’s learned a lot after the summer and being hurt and coming back and having successes and then not playing so well at stretches and fighting back to play well again,’’ he said. “He’s still focusing on trying to get better. He’s made great strides for his first year and we look forward to that continuing.’’
Burke has started 61 straight games since taking over the starting point guard duties in a Nov. 24 game at Oklahoma City.
His field goal shooting has been a disappointment – he ranks 123rd out of 124 players in the NBA at 37.8 percent, just ahead of Detroit’s Brandon Jennings. But his free throw shooting has been superb, 89 percent, which would rank him No. 4 in the league if he had more makes at the line this season.
Burke knows he has to work on his shooting and learning how to get to the free throw line more. He has just 100 attempts, which is well below other point guards such as Damian Lillard (402) or Isaiah Thomas (405).
“I just have to continue to attack and not settle for as many jump shots as I usually do,’’ Burke said. “I need to watch a lot of film on shot selection, watch a lot of guards and how they are able to get in the paint and make plays, not only for themselves but for others. That’s something I definitely work on, getting stronger and getting in the paint and finishing.’’
In reflecting on his first season in Utah, Burke believes the adversity of the Jazz season will make him stronger and he’ll still remember the good times he’s had.
“There were a lot of good moments for us this year through all the bad, beating some of the top teams in the league (Miami, Oklahoma City) a lot people didn’t expect us to beat,’’ he said. “It’s pretty tough, coming from high school or college you were winning for the most part, but we’re finding ways to grow as a team and the chemistry is continuing to get better and better.’’
Burke's positive attitude has been key in getting him through the rigors of an NBA season.
“Not ever getting discouraged,’’ he said. “Guys are going to have really good nights on you, some nights you’re going to have really good nights on other guys — that’s just the reality of the league. For me being a young point guard, I need to continue to get better so I can be one of those top guards some day and that’s my goal.’’