Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke looking to become more of a leader following solid rookie season
"We competed against each other every day, and I'm sure he was frustrated obviously not playing as much as he did in the beginning of the season. But you can't say enough about a guy like John. He sacrifices for his team and he makes sure I'm doing the right thing.
"He thinks I have a better understanding of what they mean by having to work every single day," Burke said, grateful for the mentoring he received from Lucas. "It's really a job. I didn't know that coming into the league. I knew it was going to be tough and a lot of hard work, but it's really like a job. You've got to wake up every single day with that mindset that I need to get better today because you won't be the player that you can be, or you won't pull the potential out, unless you do that every single day.
"It's tough, man. You definitely wake up some days not feeling like going to practice and not feeling like doing something, but that's when you've got to push through. So I think I've got a better understanding of that now."
And don't forget that Burke missed the first 12 games of the regular season after suffering a broken index finger on his right hand during an exhibition game last October.
Once he came back, his head coach, Corbin — whose contract was not renewed by Jazz management — was impressed with the rookie point guard's performance.
"I think he's had a great year," Corbin said. "From the summer league and getting drafted and getting hurt at the beginning of the season and then learning, from being a scoring point guard to trying to change and trying to get used to the speed of this game, what we're trying to get him to do to initiate the offense and make plays on the ball at times, and make plays off the ball. And defensively, dealing with the different point guards he has to deal with on a nightly basis in this league.
"The attention to detail that he paid to everything from day one gave him a chance and will give him a chance going forward to be the player that he wants to be. He wants to be one of the best point guards in this league. And I think if he continues to work and stay focused like he did this year and continues to grow, he'll have a chance to reach his goal."
Teammates like forward Richard Jefferson, a 13-year NBA veteran, were also impressed by what they saw out of Burke's baptism by fire.
"I really think he did a good job," Jefferson said. "I think he had good role models around him, and he had good people that worked hard with him.
"He's 21 years old, he's a rookie, and I think the future is bright. Just continuing to work — that's really what the five main young guys need to do — and positive things will happen.
"He doesn't waver mentally; when he's on that court, he's locked in," Jefferson said. "And the more comfortable you get, the better you'll get. But he's 100 percent focused on the game and I think that shows in some of the big shots that he shoots and hits."
Ah, yes, those big shots that Burke hit in games.
There was that night against Orlando, when Burke buried a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to lift the Jazz to victory over the Magic. Or the time he hit the clinching shot with 24 seconds left in Utah's victory over two-time defending NBA champion Miami. And the night his driving layup with 19.1 seconds left helped lift the Jazz past Charlotte.
And the season finale, when he scored an NBA career-high 32 points with seven rebounds and nine assists in Utah's double-overtime victory over Minnesota.
"Hitting some big shots in the fourth quarter, it kinda reminded me of being back in college and how comfortable I was out there down the stretch," Burke recalled. "A lot of times, I was comfortable back at Michigan, and sometimes I wasn't my first year here.
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