LOS ANGELES — The team hasn't announced when it will happen, but Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin will have a bit of a quandary on his hands when Mo Williams returns from his thumb surgery.
Williams, who's back at practice with a thumb splint, will resume his role as starting point guard, no doubt.
But the 30-year-old veteran said his surgeon, Dr. Michelle Carlson, said it would take about nine weeks from his Jan. 4 surgery for the repaired torn ligaments in his right thumb to fully heal. He's just over seven weeks out from his surgery and is holding out hope he'll be able to make it back sooner than that timetable.
When that does happen, Corbin has to decide what to do with the minutes Williams will take up.
Will the playing time go to current starter Jamaal Tinsley, backup Earl Watson or improving-on-the-fly second-year combo guard Alec Burks?
"We'll deal with it when the time comes," Corbin said before Saturday's loss to the Clippers at Staples Center.
It helps the Jazz that Gordon Hayward returned from this 10-game shoulder-injury absence to give the team another ballhandler.
Corbin has also been impressed with the evolution of Burks' playmaker skills and the way the 21-year-old is improving defensively against point guards.
The Jazz coach has used Burks more at point than as a shooting guard lately. While he hesitates to keep him in late and thinks the young player still needs to improve the way he pushes the ball up the court, Corbin likes the progression he's seen.
"I think his overall growth has been just understanding of what position he's playing and the change when you go from one to two," Corbin said. "The difference in how to get the ball up the floor quickly, to get us set, to call a play, to make the initial pass and then cut off and read on the weak side, when he should be able to attack."
Coming into Saturday's game, Burks had averaged 10.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in nine February games. That's up from his season averages of 6.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg and 1.4 apg.
"He's come across and made secondary shots for us after the double's come or the swing-swing," Corbin said, "and just being ready at all times."
WILLIAMS IMPROVING: Corbin said his normal starting point guard continues to increase his activity. Williams had two pins removed from his surgically repaired thumb during the All-Star break and has been practicing since the team reconvened Monday.
"With each day that passes, he's getting a little less pain, a little more comfortable with where his thumb is," Corbin said, adding that Williams' strength and flexibility in the thumb are also increasing.
"We just have to proceed and he'll give us an indicator of where he is," Corbin said. "Still no contact yet, but he'll do as much as he can (until it's) time to make another step."
HOLD THE ICE: The first Jazz bus arrived at Staples Center three hours before Saturday's tipoff, but the players weren't able to use the court until about an hour before the game started.
For a while, there wasn't even a hardwood court on the floor. The Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche played an afternoon game at Staples Center, and that game went long, so the facility's crew had to scramble to put the basketball court on the slippery surface.
Corbin chuckled when asked if he'd taken in an NHL hockey game.
"No," he said. "I watched a couple of college games — basketball."
Corbin explained that he preferrs the sport with a basketball.
"No ice," he said.
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