Utah Jazz: Injuries give Alec Burks and others chance to shine
In the loneliest stretch of his young career, Alec Burks sat and watched. He watched his team falter and flourish. As a result of the Jazz's so-called "good problem to have," the former lottery pick did not play in eight of nine games for the Jazz over a two-week span between Nov. 14 and 28.
"That's hard when you're 21 years old," Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll said.
Then, Burks watched as his teammates, one by one, fell to injuries.
For the first time this season, the Jazz are being forced to lean on their depth. Coach Tyrone Corbin has lamented his inability to find minutes for Alec Burks, Jeremy Evans and others as his most frustrating task this season. With Marvin Williams (concussion symptoms) and Derrick Favors (plantar fasciitis) out for unknown periods of time, those players will finally get their chance.
In Saturday's 124-116 loss at Houston, Burks played 14 minutes and scored a season-high 11 points and it was a most unexpected lineup, led by Burks, that nearly propelled the Jazz to a victory.
Even Evans, the reigning slam dunk champion who the Jazz signed to a multi-year extension in the offseason, contributed Saturday. He scored four points and grabbed three rebounds in 9 minutes, and a put-back dunk in the second half elicited "ahhhhs" from the Toyota Center crowd.
"I feel good about all the guys on this team," Corbin said. "I'm not hesitant to put them in the game. I just want to make sure that it's right for the time they've been sitting, I'm not putting them in a bad situation when they come in the game."
Having players ready to contribute throughout the roster is an undeniable asset. However, too many good players of similar ability more likely leads to grousing and discontentedness, despite the organization's insistence that their depth is an asset more than a hindrance.
"To have good depth, if the players are humble and unselfish," General Manager Dennis Lindsey said in the preseason, "is the problem you want to have."
To offset the absences of Favors and Williams, four of the Jazz's five starters played 32 minutes, including Al Jefferson's 36.
For the first several minutes of the fourth quarter, Corbin went with a lineup the Jazz hadn't played all season: Watson, Evans, Burks, Kanter and Gordon Hayward. Burks scored six points in the quarter, and the unit hung tough while the starters rested.
"It is unconventional," Corbin said. "We need some minutes. I think they helped us hang in there. [Houston] made a little run, and got the five-point lead, but it was keeping it close enough to give the guys a break."
With Burks on the floor, the Jazz battled back from a 10-point deficit to tie the game at 107. It was validation for the former University of Colorado guard, a fan favorite, who has lamented being "stuck on the bench."
Burks said all of the bench players made a statement.
"We just showed we should be playing," he said. "We're a deep team, everybody knows that, and we just fight hard, trying to win the game."
As he watched, Burks said he was learning from Carroll. A starter at times last season, Carroll was bumped out of the rotation early in November, not playing in five of six games similar to the stretch Burks later endured. However, he flourished when given a chance in the Jazz's loss in Boston on Nov. 14 and has been part of the rotation since. With Marvin Williams out, Carroll started the last two games.
"I've been trying to mentor him," Carroll said, "tell him that anything can happen. Just like Marvin went down, D-Faves went down, and Jeremy and Burks are back in the lineup."
He added: "It's all about just staying ready."
It's good advice for all of the Jazz's bench players, whose minutes will inevitably shrink when Favors and Marvin Williams return.
"It's a long season," Corbin said, "and you can't sit over there and pout about your minutes when you're not getting them, and then the opportunity comes and you're not ready."
However, that has not been an issue for the Jazz in recent games. And that's a good problem not to have.
• Jazz backups Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans saw a spike in minutes this weekend due to injuries to Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors.
• Favors was scheduled to undergo an MRI Sunday in Salt Lake City to evaluate plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Clippers at Jazz
P EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • Monday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Season series • First meeting
Records • Jazz 9-9, Clippers 10-6
About the Jazz • Guards Randy Foye and Mo Williams both came off the bench for the Clippers last season. ... Second-year guard Alec Burks has played 14 minutes in back-to-back games. He scored 11 points in Saturday's loss in Houston. ... Marvin Williams (concussion symptoms) is a game-time decision and the status of Derrick Favors (plantar fasciitis) is pending the result of a Sunday MRI.
About the Clippers • L.A. is coming off a 116-81 trouncing of Sacramento at home on Saturday. ... Veteran Jamal Crawford, in his first year with the team, leads the Clippers with 17.5 points per game. ... Before winning their last two games, the Clippers lost four straight.