After a broken right finger delayed his debut by nearly a month, Trey Burke began his professional career last Wednesday like many other NBA rookies have: with a little bit of embarrassment.
(At least Burke didn't need any nail polish remover after his solo entrance.)
Burke performed well enough in his first game — 11 points on 5 for 8 shooting in just 12 minutes, albeit in a loss — but soon found himself subjected to a different type of rookie punishment, being held to a combined 4 for 17 mark in consecutive double-digit losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder that dropped the woebegone Jazz to 1-14 on the season. (Nobody tell that kid.)
The Michigan product continued his shooting struggles against Tom Thibodeau's Chicago Bulls on Monday night, a game you almost certainly didn't watch because, with a depressed Bulls squad playing its first game without Derrick Rose and the Jazz still searching for their second win nearly a month into the 2013-14 campaign, this profiled as "the Saddest Matchup of the Season," according to NBA.com's John Schuhmann. But he also showed some signs of the sorts of playmaking that led Utah to tap him with the No. 9 overall pick, like this no-look behind-the-head dish to a streaking Derrick Favors:
... and this nice acrobatic finish through contact in transition:
... and, most notably, this big 3-pointer in overtime (yes, it was overtime, despite the 80-78 score):
Burke's final line wasn't super impressive — 17 shots to score 14 points and five turnovers against four assists in 34 minutes, although the six rebounds were nice. He showed some of the same issues that plagued him in Summer League, including some difficulty creating space off the dribble and getting all the way to the rim, which led to a number of pull-ups around the foul line and push-shot floaters from the wings on which Burke hasn't yet developed a reliable touch. But there was a bit of a spark, a little more control in the pick-and-roll, another potential shot-maker ... and, for one night at least, a win, as Utah pulled out an 89-83 victory in overtime. (Quick, somebody tell that kid!)
Realistically, Burke doesn't right now give the Jazz a better chance to follow up Win No. 2 with a third than recent signee Diante Garrett — the D-League call-up has been steady in his seven games, averaging 4.1 assists against 1.6 turnovers in 18.1 minutes per game and helping the Jazz outscore opponents by more than nine points per 100 possessions in his time on the floor, according to NBA.com's stat tool. But while Utah drafted Burke to be the point guard of the future, giving him the opportunity to be a reason to watch now matters nearly as much for fans well aware that this season was always destined for another high-lottery finish, anyway.
"It wasn’t the prettiest win," Burke said after the game, "... but it was a good one." Not least of which because it gave Jazz fans a few moments of excitement in the midst of a dreary season.
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