SALT LAKE CITY — On the second stop of a six-city, two-week road trip, New York Knicks teammates Trey Burke and Damyean Dotson stayed an hour after practice concluded Friday at the University of Utah to continue working.
Then, an hour before shootaround opened at Vivint Arena ahead of Saturday’s Utah Jazz game, the duo was once again on the court getting up early shots.
With Burke recently returning from a six-game absence after suffering a knee sprain, the former Jazzman is working his way back into rhythm, and it isn’t going unnoticed.
“Just that example alone, that’s a leadership example for the rest of our guys,” said Knicks coach David Fizdale. “I just love the way they’re approaching things.”
A lot has changed in the 26-year-old Burke’s life since his three-year tenure with the Jazz from 2013-16.
In the past year alone, Burke revived his basketball career in the G League with personal maturation, before earning a spot on the Knicks roster in 2017-18 — where he started nine of his 36 games to average 12.8 points and 4.7 assists.
His nightly averages are now 10.9 points, 3.0 assists and 2.3 boards after coming off the bench to score 12 points in the final 7:36 of New York’s 129-97 loss to Utah Saturday on 4-of-5 shooting.
“Just coming back, I kind of came back slow,” Burke said of the recent injury. “Just trying to get my rhythm back. When you’re out for 12 days without being able to play basketball in this league, things are moving so fast so you’ve got to find your rhythm, and I think a lot of the extra work I’ve been doing is helping me get all the way back to myself.”
The early NBA disappointment, particularly in his lone season in Washington in 2016-17, led to a career rebirth in the Big Apple, but he enters unrestricted free agency as the end of the season.
In New York, he’s also teammates with his former college backcourt mate Tim Hardaway Jr., who helped lead the University of Michigan to the 2013 NCAA National Championship game.
“I’ve been through the lows and highs of this league, and nothing really bothers me now. My sixth year has made me much stronger,” Burke said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of mileage left in my body.
“I really only played like two or three years of basketball, the other years I didn’t play much so I’m working everyday,” he continued. “I fell back in love with the game, so I think from here on out it’s just continuing to get better.”1 comment on this story
Burke started in 111 of his 210 games in Utah throughout his three seasons, averaging 12.1 points, 4.2 assists and 2.5 rebounds on 38.4 percent shooting.
Once he wrapped up his pregame routine, a group of fans nestled in the corner for autographs and photos as Burke still admits that his time in Utah also helped him grow as a man.
“I’ve had to figure the league out,” Burke said. “I think individually it helped me kind of look myself in the mirror and re-evaluate what I needed to get better at and the areas I needed to grow in.”