At least once a game, it seems, Jazz rookie Trey Burke drives around a high screen, turns toward the basket and abruptly picks up his dribble.
Instead slashing to the rim, Burke makes the split-second decision to try something else. He pulls up and launches a 15-foot jumper from an angle — sometimes from an extremely difficult angle. Upon release, Burke’s shot looks too flat and far off line. Watching it, you think the ball had no chance of going into the basket.
But, more often than not, it does. Off the glass and in.
Burke will play the 32nd game of his NBA career Saturday night, when the Jazz battle the Washington Wizards at EnergySolutions Arena. He’s been working on his pull-up bank shot, however, since he first picked up a basketball.
It is an unusual weapon in today’s drive-and-kick, 3-point dominated NBA.
“I’ve been practicing it a long time,” Burke says. “It’s been one of my sweet-spot shots since I was young. Every time I get to the elbow — coming off a screen or in transition — that’s kind of my guide to making that basket. Hitting the ball off the backboard is something I’ve always practiced.”
Burke credits an AAU coach in Ohio, Victor Dandridge, with teaching him the importance of using the glass to make angle jumpers.
“I still keep in touch with him now,” Burke said. “He says that’s his favorite shot of mine — hitting that backboard shot. He used to make me practice it a lot.
“… I think I already had it, but I developed it when he worked me out. He made me shoot it over and over again. I think that’s why I can make it when some guards can’t.”
Burke can’t recall ever winning a game by banking in a jumper at the buzzer but says “that shot has come in handy a lot of times. I’ve made some big baskets using the glass. I’ve always been comfortable with it.”
Years ago, most NBA players were comfortable shooting off the backboard. In fact, they were expected to make bank shots.
“When I coached,” Frank Layden said, “we practiced shooting the ball that way. We called it ‘automatic.’ … It was a shot our guys used all the time.”
Before Red Auerbach died, Layden remembers talking to the legendary Boston Celtics coach about the issue.
“Red said, ‘I don’t know why we don’t use it more. We used to use it so much,’” Layden recalled.
According to Burke, some of his Utah teammates have teased him about how he often line-drives the ball off the glass. He’s not planning to make any major changes, however.
“They always get on me because they say I shoot it too hard,” Burke said. “They want me to get under it a little more — shoot it a little softer. But I have confidence to shoot it this way.”
There is one characteristic of Burke’s bank shot that coach Tyrone Corbin sees as a huge advantage.
“He can shoot it one-handed, and that allows him to get the ball away from the defender,” Corbin explained. “He’s not the tallest guy, so he uses that to get the ball clear. … It’s a good shot.”
Jazz backup point guard John Lucas agrees.
“It’s a lost art,” he said, “and Trey doesn’t miss too many of them.”
The question of using the glass or shooting the ball directly at the basket has been part of the conversation in the NBA for a long time. The Spurs’ Tim Duncan still regularly uses the glass, but generally speaking, the shot went out of vogue long ago.
Consider the opinions that players expressed in a Sports Illustrated story that was written in 1999:
• Grant Hill: “I don’t like the bank shot. I never really practiced it, so I’m not really comfortable with it.”
• Tim Hardaway: “The only angle I consider is straight in.”
• Derek Harper: “It’s old school. It’s not glamorous, and today, if it’s not glamorous, it won’t work.”
Don’t tell Burke.
“It’s something I’ll continue to do,” he said.
“Guys don’t make any shots anymore, let alone bank shots. Guys today just want to dunk and shoot three-pointers.”
— Larry Bird, Sports Illustrated, 1999
Wizards at Jazz
O At EnergySolutions Arena
Tip-off • Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • Root Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 1600 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz, 14-29; Wizards, 21-21
Season series • First game
Last meeting • Jazz, 92-88 (Jan. 23, 2013)
About the Jazz • They have been off since Tuesday’s 112-97 loss to Minnesota. … They have lost two straight games for the first time since Dec. 14-16 (Miami, San Antonio). … In his last four games, G/F Gordon Hayward averaged 27 points on 39-of-65 shooting (.600). … C/F Derrick Favors (abductor) will be a game-time decision.
About the Wizards • This is their third game in four nights. … They are 1-6 in their last seven games in Utah. … G John Wall averages 20.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 8.5 assists. … As a team, they shoot 38 percent from the 3-point line. G Bradley Beal has made 43 percent of his 3-point attempts.