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The Utah Jazz have not and will not challenge for a playoff spot this season, but the team has still had a fairly successful campaign so far in new head coach Quin Snyder's first season. With players like Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and others, the Jazz boast one of the best collections of young talent in the league. They're not especially good yet, but they're growing together game by game.
It now looks as if one of those players is going to have to progress at a different rate than the rest of his teammates. The team announced Tuesday that shooting guard Burks will miss the rest of the 2014-15 season after undergoing surgery for an injured left shoulder. From the press release:
After examination by the Utah Jazz medical staff it has been decided that Alec Burks will undergo a surgical repair on his injured left shoulder. The procedure will be performed by Jazz head orthopaedic team physician, Dr. Travis Maak, on Wednesday, Dec. 31 at the University of Utah. As a result, Burks will miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season. He is expected to be ready for the start of 2015 Jazz training camp.
“Alec's long-term health has been our top priority throughout this process, and although it is unfortunate that we will be without his services on the court the rest of this season, we commend Alec's commitment and continued effort to play through considerable pain to this point,” said Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey. “After continued consultation with our medical staff, Alec and his representation, we have unanimously agreed that it would be most prudent for Alec to have this procedure performed now in order to ensure that he will be healthy and ready for the start of next season.”
Burks broke out last season with an average of 14.0 on 45.9 percent shooting, which was enough to earn him a four-year, $42-million extension before the deadline this October. He has plateaued a bit so far in 2014-15 — roughly the same scoring average, worse shooting overall but better from deep, etc. — but has improved in several areas and looks to be a fixture in the starting lineup when healthy. The Jazz will miss his outside shooting and the spacing it helps bring to their offense. Expect a bigger role for rookie Rodney Hood in Burks's absence.
Apart from the on-court impact of the injury, this news should serve as a reminder why players often consider taking less money in an extension instead of waiting to test the market as a restricted free agent the next summer. Burks is perhaps not the best example of a player who opted not to zero in on the biggest payday possible — his contract is probably somewhere near his upper bound in salary — but he does prove that a young player seemingly establishing himself in the NBA can have his progression derailed very quickly. If Burks hadn't agreed to his extension, he'd be looking at a very difficult decision this summer. At least he has some security during this tough time.
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