Utah Jazz careful to not change Alec Burks' game
He wasn't playing, but he wore his uniform, and at some point in Monday's overtime win over the Sacramento Kings, injured Jazz point guard Earl Watson intoned some advice to Alec Burks, his out-of-position replacement.
"I told him to just be aggressive," said Watson, who was a game-time decision Wednesday against the Bucks but did not play. "Don't try to run the offense, don't play the way you see anyone else playing, be who you are."
And then, perhaps, the most important nugget: "You can't sit there and be a pass-first point guard if that's not who you are."
With injuries to Mo Williams and, for the last three games, Watson, Burks has been forced into big minutes at point guard. The results have been mixed, but Burks has largely received praise from his teammates and his coaches. The second-year guard from Colorado, however, has seemed unaffected by all the talk about his game.
"You can change," he said, "but you still got to play your game. You don't want to be too much of a robot out there."
Watson's advice veered slightly away from what coach Tyrone Corbin has said in recent days, including that Burks had to alter his game to succeed in this new role.
"I think Earl's message was don't get thinking about too many things before the first thing," Corbin said, "and that's getting the ball down the floor, because that can slow you down from getting it down because you thinking about the play and the play set."
Burks once again played primary backup minutes on Wednesday, making his first two shot attempts both 3-pointers. He entered the game shooting under 30 percent on 3-pointers, but after his second 3 Wednesday, he had made five in a row over the last three games.
Corbin said he doesn't think Burks will ever become a full-time point guard, despite a trend in the NBA of teams going to longer, more athletic guards.
"I think he's a natural two-man," Corbin said. "I think he'll be really effective at the combo. ... The natural position is the two and we can use him at the one."
Hayward shooting again
Gordon Hayward overcame one big hurdle Wednesday in his bid to return to the Jazz lineup before the All-Star break.
Sidelined for six games with a sprained right shoulder, Hayward took his first shots in a week and a half on Friday.
Asked if that meant he was nearer the end of his injury, Hayward said, "I hope so."
Hayward said he is still limited when it comes to sprinting imagine the torque on the shoulder when you get going at full speed and on certain crossover moves.
Talkin' up their dunks
The NBA on Thursday will announce the contestants in the slam dunk contest during All-Star weekend. Jazz forward Jeremy Evans, who won the contest last year, has said he would like to return.
While Evans has the trophy to show for his above-the-rim prowess, and Burks says he will win the contest one day, it wasn't just the Jazz players talking up their dunking skills.
In a light moment Wednesday, the 6-foot-6 Corbin who turned 50 on New Year's Eve promised that he could still dunk, as well.
"I'm a natural athlete," Corbin said. "... I can dunk. Not easy, but I can. I can get loose. I can dunk. I still play in the summer with my guys in South Carolina a little bit, probably by the end of the summer I can throw one down."