Kragthorpe: Jazz can get by without Trey Burke for a while
Published: October 17, 2013 10:13AM
Updated: February 14, 2014 11:36PM
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Kurt Kragthorpe

In a 28-second sequence of the second quarter Wednesday night, Jazz guard Lester Hudson made a 3-point shot, stole the ball from Portland’s Damian Lillard and drilled another 3-pointer.

Not bad for a guy who may not even make the team.

That snapshot from the Jazz’s 99-92 preseason loss at EnergySolutions Arena served as sufficient evidence that the Jazz can survive Trey Burke’s absence for several weeks due to a broken index finger, with this explanation: Every potential opportunity for a victory that’s wasted while he’s watching his teammates play is really no big deal, in the context of this season’s purposes.

What hurts is that every minute Burke misses on the court during his rookie season delays his development. Every visit from Lillard, the Weber State product, also makes everybody wish the Jazz somehow could have acquired him in the 2012 draft — via territorial rights, or something.

And there’s just something about Burke’s injury that drives home the point that 10 years after John Stockton’s retirement, the Jazz keep searching for a lasting cure at point guard. The position is not necessarily cursed, but you sure could get that impression.

In those 10 seasons, 14 players have started games at point guard for the Jazz: Deron Williams (399), Carlos Arroyo (87), Devin Harris (79), Keith McLeod (71), Mo Williams (46), Jamaal Tinsley (33), Raul Lopez (26), Earl Watson (19), Milt Palacio (18), Ronnie Price (18), Randy Livingston (3), Derek Fisher (2), Eric Maynor (2) and Howard Eisley (1).

John Lucas III likely will join the list on Opening Night, Oct. 30 vs. Oklahoma City, and Burke will follow at some point.

So it was that Mo Williams, the latest in a series of the franchise’s supposed answers at the position, was back in the building as Trail Blazer for the occasion of Lucas’ first preseason start and Hudson’s first extended audition. Lucas and Hudson totaled 17 points and five assists. Those numbers might be good enough, as long as Gordon Hayward (seven assists) has the ball in his hands a considerable amount.

Hudson, 29, has appeared in 52 games with four NBA teams and spent part of last season in China. Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin liked Hudson’s energy and defensive work, so he kept him on the floor at the end. Scott Machado presumably will have more opportunities in the remaining four preseason games as this sorting-out process continues.

Obviously, the Jazz won’t be jeopardizing a playoff berth if they lose some games in November. The ending of this season is already known, regardless of the beginning. Burke’s absence hardly will alter anyone’s preconceived thoughts about the published over-under number of 25 wins for the Jazz — and 57 losses, if you’re counting.

That’s why there’s really no need for any kind of roster move that would serve as a short-term fix. In the big picture, Burke’s injury won’t hurt the Jazz in 2013-14, while he’s sidelined for five preseason games and about a dozen regular-season games, maybe more.

What’s truly lost, though, is everything Burke will miss in the meantime: “The experience of the game, the growing and camaraderie you’re trying to build with the team, the comfort that you get [in] knowing what you’re going to get from different guys in game situations,” Corbin said. “That puts that process back a little bit. He was growing and learning his game … so it puts you back in a lot of areas.”

In Wednesday’s case, Burke missed the opportunity to test himself against Lillard, who schooled him last week in Boise.

He’ll have a lot of catching up to do whenever he makes his official NBA debut, trying to live up to expectations as the No. 9 pick in the draft and a major component of the Jazz’s future. He might even help them overcome the recent past at the point.