MIAMI — During the NCAA tournament and again over the summer, Trey Burke would occasionally get a text message from another basketball player with Ohio roots.
It meant a lot to Burke that a four-time NBA MVP kept tabs on him with simple quick texts like, “How are you doing?”
Burke and James share Buckeye State ties, but they got to know each other when the point guard attended the superstar’s basketball camp before his sophomore season at Michigan.
“It’s a mutual relationship,” Burke said. ”It should be fun playing against him.”
The rookie’s first chance to do so will come Monday night when the Jazz (6-20) take on the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat (17-6) at American Airlines Arena.
The 21-year-old Burke can’t wait to be on the same court in an NBA game against James, Dwyane Wade and Co. He smiled that they were in the league while he was in middle school.
“It’s really excitement for me. It’s going to be my first time playing against those guys,” Burke said. “At the same time, I’m going to go right in there and compete against them. It’s going to be kind of weird out there on the court with them, but I’m looking forward to going in there and trying to get a win.”
The Jazz haven’t done that since the Millsap Miracle in Miami in 2010 when the former Utah power forward helped the team overcome an eight-point deficit with 29 seconds left to force overtime.
The Jazz went on to earn one of the greatest victories in franchise history, stunning the Heat 116-114 thanks in large part to Millsap’s eight-point flurry in 12 seconds at the end of regulation and his career-high 46-point performance.
By the way, the Jazz can remind Millsap of that amazing Nov. 9, 2010 night when they visit Atlanta on Friday.
This Miami game tips off the Jazz’s annual pre-Christmas road trip, which seems like it’s already been going on for a while. They played at Sacramento and Denver last week before making a quick pit stop in Utah to face San Antonio on Saturday before hitting the road again Sunday.
Before heading home in time for Christmas, Utah will take a Southeastern tour of the NBA, going from Miami to Orlando, Atlanta, Charlotte and Memphis.
“We’ve got to treat it as a business trip,” Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward said. “It will be fun playing some good teams in some good atmospheres, but we’ve got to take it game by game. We’re going to need energy and focus each and every night.”
Interestingly, the Jazz seemed to have more of that on the road last week when they picked up surprising double-digit wins against the Kings and Nuggets than they showed in Saturday’s blowout loss to the Spurs at EnergySolutions Arena.
"We didn't have the pep we have had the last few games because it's a back-to-back," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said after Saturday's loss. "But I thought the effort was there. We just didn't have the same spark about us that we have been having."
While Burke is looking forward to seeing new NBA territory in his first trip around the league, he’s also got the workmanlike mindset that Hayward talked about Saturday in the locker room.
“That’s what this league is about, just being able to travel the world and see different things. It’s going to be a really fun road trip,” Burke said. “We know that we’re going down there for business, and that should be our primary focus.”
Burke believes the Jazz can pick up some lessons from watching a well-oiled experienced machine like San Antonio.
“That just goes to show what type of execution, what type of system they run,” he said. “We can learn from playing against a team like that. We can start using that and applying it to our offense.”
The biggest thing he learned from going against All-Star point guard Tony Parker?
“Just never relaxing.”
As much as they might like to in some of the warm climates they’re visiting between now and Christmas, the Jazz won’t have much time to do that on this trip. Especially not in Miami.
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