Utah Jazz: Burks prepares for bigger role in third year
By BILL ORAM
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jul 09 2013 06:36PM
Orlando, Fla. • As a second-year Utah Jazz guard, Alec Burks was burdened by discontentment and questions of just what was expected of him.
"Sometimes I wouldn’t play," he said Tuesday. "Sometimes I’d play 35 minutes, maybe I’d be at the 1, maybe I’d be at the 2, so just never knowing your role."
Burks scored 18 points to lead the Jazz in an 85-71 loss to Houston at the Orlando Pro Summer League, his second summer at the event designed for developing players. But unlike last year, the No. 12 pick in the 2011 Draft won’t go back to learning by observing. Ready or not, he will be a primary focus for the Jazz next season and will be expected to produce on the offensive end.
Even with the addition of Brandon Rush last week in a three-team trade with the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets, Burks is the likely choice to start at shooting guard.
"Most of the time your team is looking for you to score in that position," Jazz assistant coach Sidney Lowe said, "and I think he’s growing in terms of how to get there and he’s learning how to come off screens, he’s learning when to curl."
Burks has worked this summer with Jazz player development assistant Johnnie Bryant and brought back a noticeably improved jump shot. Through two games at summer league, he was 9 of 21 from the field, including a 4-of-6 performance in 10 minutes against Miami on Sunday. He left that game early with a mildly sprained left ankle.
A nice target for point guard Trey Burke, Burks could be sharing the backcourt with the touted rookie for years. At least that’s the hope.
"I got to know him quick in the last week or so," Burke said. "I know where he likes the ball, I know where he likes to shoot. I know he’s a really good shooter."
Burks became a key player for the Jazz when Mo Williams went down with a torn tendon in his thumb in December. Williams missed three months with the injury, making Burks valuable as a sub in the backcourt, but also as a part-time point guard.
As it stands, the Jazz have only Burke under contract at point guard, and through the first two games of the Summer League, Burks has at times taken on the responsibility of bringing the ball up the floor and initiating the offense.
"Going forward," Lowe said, "we don’t know who we’re going to have on the team. We could have a couple of other point guards and that way he’ll be able to play more 2."
Burks said after last season, in which he averaged 7 points and had nearly a one-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, that he wanted to return to the Jazz improved as a player and person.
"I feel like I’ve grown up," Burks said. "About to turn 22. As a man, I feel like I’m growing up."
Asked what he was doing to improve his game, Burks said, "I’m here. I’m here playing and getting better, learning the offense even more so I can play the point and the 2."
Notoriously competitive, Burks agreed his sophomore season in the NBA was a challenge, but that he never doubted himself. The notion of doubt being applied to Burks left Lowe nearly speechless.
"Alec is a very …" Lowe said, "He’s a … How can I put this? He’s got a lot of confidence in himself. And he doesn’t get down on himself to where we would be concerned about it. He’ll make a mistake, he may not like it, but he doesn’t get down. He’s ready to come right back."