MINNEAPOLIS — Trey Burke wasn’t quite sure what to think when he was asked to expound on his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves before Saturday night’s game.
The interview with this question — asked jokingly, by the way — lasted about as long as the point guard did with the T-Wolves after they drafted him ninth overall in last June’s NBA draft.
“About five minutes,” Burke said.
Shortly after the 2013 NCAA Player of the Year took to the stage and shook NBA Commissioner David Stern’s hand while wearing a Timberwolves hat, the Michigan product found out that Minnesota really wasn’t adding to its large collection of point guards.
He was informed that he’d been traded to Utah during an ESPN radio interview, ending a moment of confusion for a guy who certainly wasn’t expecting to be picked up by a team that already had Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea.
“I really didn’t know what to think. I didn’t work out with them or even interview for them, so it was kind of random to me,” Burke said. “I didn’t know what was going on. Then when I did end up getting traded, it kind of made sense.”
The Jazz had the T-Wolves snatch Burke, who they weren’t sure was going to fall that far seeing as he was considered the top point guard of the 2013 class. In turn, Utah drafted UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad (14th) and Louisville center Gorgui Dieng (21st) to complete the swap.
Burke smiled when asked what happened to the T-Wolves hat he donned on stage at the Barclays Center for his draft-night photo-op moment.
“One of the officials that was working that night took it,” he said, “and I’ve never seen it since.”
The rookie was given a Jazz hat instead.
“I still have it. I think it’s at home right now back in Columbus,” he said. “I’ll always keep that one.”
Seven months later, the Jazz feel the same way about their 6-foot-1 playmaker.
Coming into Saturday’s game, Burke was averaging 13.9 points, 5.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds since his injury-delayed start. The rookie of the year candidate was especially impressive in his Michigan return, scoring 20 points and dishing out a career-high 12 assists in Friday’s 110-89 win at Detroit.
For comparison’s sake, Muhammad is averaging only 1.1 points and 0.7 rebounds. He’s played more in the D-League than he has in the NBA this season. The 6-foot-11 Dieng has averaged 1.9 rebounds and 1.4 points in 21 appearances before Saturday’s game.
It’s the second night in a row the Jazz have played a team that might have second thoughts on passing up on Burke in the draft.
Burke, an All-American and Bob Cousy Award winner at Michigan last season, even thought the Pistons might pick him up with their mid-lottery pick. Instead, the Pistons selected Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who’s averaging 7.3 points.
Burke admitted it’s in the back of his mind that he was passed up by the Pistons, but he’s not holding a grudge.
“I wouldn’t say like my feelings was hurt,” Burke said about being passed up by the Pistons. “It’s a team that I could have seen myself playing for just because I played at Michigan. A lot of people expected them to pick me up at the time.”
Burke is more than happy with the hat and team he ended up with.
“It’s a business. Things happen. They went in a different (direction),” he said. “But I feel like where I’m at is a perfect situation for me. We’re growing as a franchise. We’re a young team and we can only get better from here.”
OUT AGAIN: Gordon Hayward took to the court an hour and a half before Saturday’s tipoff against Minnesota to test his hip, but the muscle strain had not fully healed so he was again scratched from the lineup after being a game-time decision.
“It can be a thing that can linger if you don’t take care of it,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We want to make sure that we get it taken care of now and not have it linger for a long period of time.”
The Jazz have two full days off before playing the T-Wolves again in Utah on Tuesday.
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