SALT LAKE CITY — In a normal NBA campaign, raw rookies would have almost a month of preparation, including training camp and eight exhibition games, to try and get up to speed before the start of their first regular season.
Well, as we know by now, the upcoming NBA campaign is going to be anything but normal. The owners' five-month-long lockout forced teams to boil down their preseason preparation to little more than two weeks' time and a couple of exhibition contests before, ready or not, the 2011-12 regular season gets under way.
So Jazz rookies like Enes Kanter and Alec Burks, who finally got to sign with the team on Friday, are going to get a crash course in NBA Basketball 101 before jumping into what they hope will be the start of a stellar pro career.
Utah's two picks in the 2011 NBA Draft began their condensed training camp on Friday at Zions Bank Basketball Center, and they seemed eager and anxious to finally get the ball rolling after all this lost time.
"I'm just going to do what my coaches tell me to do," said the 19-year-old Kanter, a 6-foot-11 center from Turkey who was the third overall selection in the June draft. "I'm just going to work hard and I'm just going to try to do my best.
"It should be a great opportunity because Al Jefferson has lots of experience and he's going to help me a lot on the court. And Mehmet Okur, he's from Turkey, too, so I can like have comfortable conversation with him, so I think that's going to help me a lot.
"I'm so excited. We had lockout, and now I'm just going to try and get in shape because we have game in like two, three weeks," he said. "So I'm just going to try and do my best and try to get in best shape. I'm nervous because it's like my first NBA experience, first training camp. That's why I'm so excited."
Burks, the University of Colorado star who was chosen by Utah with the 12th pick in the draft, couldn't wait to get started.
"I'm expecting to work hard, learn a lot on the fly and get better every day," the 6-foot-6 shooting guard said. "I feel like all my teammates are the same way.
"I'm just excited. It's been a long four, five, six months — I don't know how long it was, but it's been a long time — so I'm just ready to play.
"I feel like I'm ready for training camp. I've just been working out," he said. "I spent like 3 1/2 months out in Indiana with Gordon (Hayward) working out. We were getting better together. And then I went to Colorado back to my school and worked out. I've just been trying to stay in shape."
The 20-year-old Burks admitted he was a little antsy to find out what's in store in his first NBA training camp.
"I don't know what to expect," he said. "I've been talking to C.J. (Miles) and everybody else all week. I'm trying to figure out what happened in the past, what they think is going to happen, so I can at least be a little bit prepared for it."
Kanter spent part of his summer playing for the Turkish Natonal Team, then spent a month and half working out in Los Angeles while waiting for the lockout to end. He's grateful he'll have Okur, his Turkish countryman, to help show him the ropes as he prepares to make his NBA debut.
"I'm in really good shape, but I need a tough camp," he said. "I just need to get in great shape because this is my first season and I'm just going to try and do my best to help my teammates. I'm just going to try and work hard and try to make the playoffs.
"With Memo, he's from where I'm from, and I can speak to him and communicate with him, and him and Al can help me a lot on the court. It's my first season and I'm from Turkey, so he's going to help me a lot."
Burks, meanwhile, already got an opportunity to strut his stuff for Jazz fans a few weeks ago in the Pro Players Charity Classic at Salt Lake Community College, where he poured in 29 points and may have answered some skeptics' doubts about his outside shooting ability.
"I'm just showing everybody I'm getting better ... that's what I wanted to show people," said Burks, who averaged averaging 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game during his sophomore year at Colorado last season. "People don't think I can shoot, they don't give me (respect) on my jumper as I deserve, so I just showed people a little bit of that, too.
"I work on that all the time. I've put emphasis on working on that during the lockout."
Kanter and Burks realize that rookies often get some "special treatment," like being forced to use pink backpacks or carrying their teammates' luggage on road trips, as well as helping pack around the team's ball bags and other equipment.
It's a rite of passage that every rookie must accept.
"It doesn't matter," Kanter said. "If it's like a tradition, so I'm just going to do it to like the other rookies."
"I don't have no problems doing that," Burks agreed. "I'd rather do that than be back home doing nothing. I'll do whatever they need me to do. I'll be a rookie for you."
Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin has high expectations for these two young men, and it all starts with training camp this weekend.
"I expect them to come in and work hard, pay attention, learn, and learn the things that they need to learn as far as strategic-wise so they can get to their talent," he said. "There's going to be a lot of different things for them. The game's going to be a lot faster, the guys are going to be bigger, stronger and faster, and they have to get used to that so they can get back to just playing basketball.
"Initially, it's going to be a little shock for them, because it's so late in the season and we don't have extended training camp and we don't have many exhibition games. But they're going to learn on the curve and, looking at them on film and talking to them individiually and understanding their excitement about being here, the curve should be short for them."
Former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan seldom let rookies get much playing time in their first season, but Corbin has more of a wait-and-see approach toward these two.
"You know what, we'll see," he said. "It's so early in the process and I really haven't had time with them on the floor yet to see how they mix in with this group of guys. We're going to throw it out there and I want them to expect to play, to work like they expect to play, and we'll see where it falls."
Corbin also expects Okur's presence to be a huge help to Kanter.
"I think he can help Enes tremendously because he's a veteran," Corbin said of his "other" Turkish center. "They can communicate because they're from the same country and know the same language.
"I can say something to him where sometimes those foreign guys look at you and give you that blank look, which means they really don't understand what you're saying," he laughed. "I hope Memo can come across and help us out a little bit there."
Yep, it's all part of NBA Basketball 101. And it's in full swing starting this weekend.
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