Apologies to Jazz point John Lucas III, but in these parts, when someone drops the name “John,” it really only refers to one person. The name-drop is usually paired with a second name but not a surname. John and Karl, like bread and butter, like pick and roll.
We get it. We know who John is.
But Trey Burke, being new here and trying to be helpful, offered clarification as training camp opened this week as he tried to answer a question about the need to be patient in his development as the next point guard to follow the path carved by a certain No. 12.
“I think that’s a point that John,” Burke said, before cutting himself off to make a clarification, “John Stockton, was telling me about as well.”
Stockton, the Hall of Famer, watched Burke in summer league. He saw Burke make mistake after mistake in Orlando, shoot 1 for 19 from 3-point range, and invite the scorn of the sorts of folks who expected the NBA Draft’s No. 9 pick to be more, well, Stocktonesque.
And when Burke joined Jazz shooting guard Alec Burks in Spokane, Wash., last month to learn from the NBA’s all-time assists leader, Stockton told Burke he was rushing and that’s why he looked lost in the offense.
“He said the better passer you are the better scorer you’re going to be,” Burke recalled.
After a summer league performance in which he shot 24.1 percent from the field, Burke has been all ears. With that, he’s heard plenty of criticism of the way he debuted.
Two months later, though, the consensus National Player of the Year, who led the University of Michigan to the NCAA championship game, says the performance doesn’t bother him.
“I think it mattered to me at the time,” he said, “because, of course, as a basketball player I wanted to play well. Now I’m past summer league; I watched it, seen what I could have done better.”
Burke averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists as a sophomore with the Wolverines and became the face of the postseason with his 3-pointer to beat Kansas in the Sweet 16.
By June, he was undisputedly the most highly regarded point guard in the draft. The Jazz, meanwhile, were searching for one.
“We traded two picks to get an opportunity to get him, so expectations are high,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “As I told him, just learn the lessons. It’s a different league, it’s an entirely different animal that you’re getting to face.”
The Jazz never seemed particularly worried about Burke’s summer showing, cautioning that it was his first opportunity to play against pros and in the Jazz system. A conversation the coaching staff had with John Beilein, Burke’s coach at Michigan, also may have helped with their patience.
“The kid, since he left the tournament, since he left school, was going around the country receiving awards,” Corbin said Beilein told the Jazz. “Then the draft, then he signed. He really didn’t have time to put in the work for a new challenge, and NBA basketball was a new challenge for him.”
The Jazz have taken special care to help Burke this summer. They sent him to Las Vegas with player development assistant Johnnie Bryant to attend a camp conducted by legendary NBA assistant coach Tim Grgurich. They sent him to spend time with Stockton. Perhaps as important as any of it, though, was the addition of Lucas, noted good guy and veteran point guard, to serve as a backup and mentor.
The Jazz let all three of the point guards on last year’s roster — Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley — depart in free agency and it was unclear who Burke would learn from in the locker room. Burks played point guard for parts of last season, but the addition of Burke was expected to allow Burks to shift back to his natural two-guard position.
In the weeks the two trained together, before the start of training camp, the veteran developed a strong feeling about the rookie.
“Trey’s going to develop into a wonderful player,” Lucas said. “He’s going to be a star in this league. He has the tools, he has the mentality, and he has the heart.”
Trey Burke developments
• Burke spent time last month training with John Stockton
• Says he has recovered from a poor performance at Orlando Pro Summer League
• The Jazz signed veteran point guard John Lucas III to serve as a backup.