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Utah Jazz: Burke struggles, but Jazz win summer league debut

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Utah Jazz guard Trey Burke (33) drives past Miami Heat guard Myck Kabongo, second from right, as Eric Griffin (66) and Rudy Gobert (27) trail the play during the second half of an NBA Orlando Pro Summer League game in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, July 7, 2013. (Special to the Tribune/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

By Bill Oram

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 07 2013 05:49PM
Updated Dec 7, 2013 11:35PM

Orlando, Fla. • Trey Burke was out of sorts for much of his professional debut, a 69-59 win over the Miami Heat at the Orlando Pro Summer League.

His shots were blocked, his bounce passes bounced off feet and, in what is the real killer for a 6-foot point guard, he looked slow.

The good news for the Jazz is that this is the Orlando Pro Summer League, where young players come to learn the NBA game. Burke, the No. 9 pick who the Jazz acquired in a draft-day trade, said he was jittery before the first game, but didn’t use that as a crutch for his 1-for-12 shooting performance.

"There’s no excuse for that," Burke said. "I think my shot will fall, that’s all about just staying confident in my shot, and I think I’ve got to feel comfortable."

Where Burke struggled shooting, he made up for it by being balanced: He tallied 8 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and just 2 turnovers.

He was matched against former Texas guard Myck Kabongo, who acknowledged the difference between college and the NBA game, even if it’s just summer league.

"Anytime you make that transition," said Kabongo, who finished with 3 points and was 0-for-4 from the field, "there’s going to be that jump. Everyone’s good at basketball, it’s no secret, you just got to compete."

The Jazz drafted Burke to be the fifth piece of their young core. The level of expectation on the Columbus, Ohio, native means every move will be scrutinized by a fan base desperate for success from the point guard. Burke had just one week to work with his new coaches and teammates at a minicamp in Orlando, but games like Sunday could lead to panic.

If there was a message from the Jazz contingent at Amway Center after the prized rookie’s first appearance, it was this: The new kid will be just fine.

"I think it’s good to get that first one out of the way," said Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward, who is with the team to observe but is not playing. "[He] didn’t shoot the ball extremely well. ... You can see when he’s out there, he’s calm, It didn’t seem like he got rattled too much, and that’s definitely a good sign."

In a rebuild, Burke will get every opportunity to assert himself as the point guard of the future. Sunday was a gentle reminder that getting to the future requires growing and that with growing comes pains.

An area where Burke looked NBA-ready on Sunday was working and communicating with his teammates. Burke, known for his leadership at the University of Michigan, spent much of the game coaching and advising roster hopefuls such as Rasid Mahalbasic and Dionte Christmas.

"We’ve actually seen that all week long," Jazz assistant Sidney Lowe said, "his communication with his teammates, getting guys in positions if someone makes a mistake, sort of talking to them, you know, let’s get back, get back on defense.

Christmas, a former star at Temple whose most recent experience was in the Italian League, led the Jazz with 14 points off the bench. Former Bradley University guard Chris Roberts added 11.

Jazz guard Alec Burks shot 4-for-6 and scored 10 points in 10 minutes before leaving the game with a mildly sprained left ankle. He is listed as day-to-day. Jazz forward Jeremy Evans scored 6 points and grabbed 5 rebounds.

As a sophomore at Michigan, Burke shot 46.3 percent from the field, but poor shooting games weren’t uncommon for the 20-year-old. He was 1-for-8 in the Final Four against Syracuse, and 2-for-12 in an opening-round game against South Dakota State.

"It’s not all about scoring in my position," Burke said. "I have to be a leader out there, I have to be able to get guys going as well and just find ways to lead the team to victory. So I felt like I did a solid job of that today."

boram@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribjazz

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