|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
|Trey Burke has struggled in his first two games as a pro.|
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It's safe to say point guard Trey Burke had the most productive day of his fledgeling NBA career Wednesday at the Orlando Pro Summer League.
Burke's assists total was hardly impressive.
He had zero.
The Utah Jazz's lottery pick was also held scoreless.
Actually, the former University of Michigan star and consensus national player of the year last season didn't have an impact at all in Utah's 30-point win against Brooklyn.
Instead, Wednesday afforded Burke something far more valuable: perspective from a much different vantage point than he has been accustomed to as a promising pro prospect.
After struggling through his first two summer league games, Burke was held out Wednesday to rest and recover physically, regroup psychologically and re-examine -- from the sideline -- the intricate details involved in his transition to an NBA-level point guard.
"It's been a long time since I haven't played in a game," Burke said Wednesday. "At Michigan, I didn't miss any games. It wasn't, like, hard [to sit out] because I knew I wasn't being punished. I knew it wasn't a punishment. I knew they wanted me to learn from the bench. I was willing to sit down and learn from the coaches' seats."
After two seasons in college, which included leading Michigan to the NCAA championship game last season, Burke knows he's in line for plenty of lessons. The tutelage will continue throughout this week when he returns to the lineup for Utah's remaining games in the league filled with rookies, young prospects and free-agent roster hopefuls.
That learning process will extend to the coming weeks as Burke, the most decorated rookie in the 10-team Orlando field, moves to Utah to follow a line of productive Jazz point guards -- from Hall of Famer John Stockton to Mark Jackson, Mo Williams, Devin Harris and Deron Williams.
Jason Kidd is making his own transition from a 19-year player career as one of the best point guards in NBA history to his first foray as a head coach with the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando this week. But Kidd reached back Wednesday to recall the process he endured coming into the league in 1994 amid lofty expectations after two seasons in college.
Because Burke sat out Wednesday against the Nets, Kidd didn't have a chance to coach against him. But that didn't stop him from delivering some valuable advice after the game.
"Watch a lot of tape and listen to the veteran guys, to the coaching staff," Kidd said of Burke. "Find someone who understands, who had some success and pick their brains, even if it's someone on an opposing team or someone you looked up to. The more you can get the information, the sooner, the better chances you have of being successful."
The expectations awaiting Burke in Salt Lake City could be overwhelming all on their own. But even taking these initial steps into the league through Orlando this week have provided a few daunting challenges for Burke, selected ninth overall last month by Minnesota and traded to Utah.
Burke averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists last season at Michigan. He often used his speed and quickness to beat defenders in the open court, along with craftiness around the basket to score in the lane against bigger defenders.
That same level of effectiveness hasn't quite kicked in yet in Orlando, where Burke is averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists but is shooting 22 percent from the field. He has as many total fouls as assists through two games and has had difficulty adjusting to the NBA pace.
Burke missed 11 of his 12 shots in Sunday's opener against the Miami Heat. He then had four turnovers and five fouls in Tuesday's loss to the Houston Rockets. Burke was hounded most of that game by Patrick Beverley, a defensive stalwart who was a key member of the Rockets' backcourt rotation with James Harden and Jeremy Lin during the playoffs last season.
Jazz assistant coach Sidney Lowe said Wednesday he has talked with Burke about maintaining his confidence and understanding that his status as a high-profile lottery pick would likely bring out the best in opposing players.
"I told him, 'There's a target on you, you're a first-round draft pick, there's expectations there but there's also people that are going to come after you because of those reasons,'" Lowe said. "I told him the most important thing is to remain who he is, play hard and not get too caught up. It's a funny game. You're going to have highs and lows, but sometimes your highs aren't as high as you think they are and your lows aren't as low as you think. You have to be able to be resilient, bounce back, go to the next game."
Sitting out Wednesday allowed that message to resonate.
"Absolutely," Burke said. "Every time I step on the court, there's a target on my back. I think guys are always going to try to make a name against me just because I had a name coming out of college. But I haven't [accomplished] nothing on this level yet. So I'm just trying to continue to learn and make a name for myself on this level as well."
Dressed in his game uniform and seated between the coaching staff and the rest of his teammates Wednesday, Burke seemed antsy at times and later admitted it was difficult to be that close to the action and not participate.
But he was also engaged each time a coach leaned over to whisper instructions and point out lessons on the court.
Lowe said Burke needs to push the ball, speed up the tempo on the court and play much faster than he did at Michigan in order to have an impact in the NBA. Secondly, Lowe said it was beneficial for Burke to learn tendencies of players and break down some cerebral aspects of the game.
"I wouldn't say it's overwhelming, because I feel like I'm picking it up pretty good," Burke said. "I'm still trying to get adjusted, get comfortable with the whole offense, the whole defense, the terminology as well. It's different from college, now with the Jazz. I think the coaches are doing a good job of learning throughout mistakes and teaching."
Burke is far from alone among last month's lottery picks who are enduring a rough summer league transition.
Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 overall pick, has been frustrated at times while converting to point guard for the Magic after having never played the position at any level of his career. Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th pick, had nine turnovers in his debut. He's shooting 25.4 percent, but has shown promise by averaging 15.3 points, 6.7 assists and 2.3 steals through three games.
Summer struggles, specifically in Orlando, seem to be part of the rights of passage for highly drafted guards entering the league in recent years. In 2008, Derrick Rose was sluggish and tentative in his summer league debut. He shot an air ball on his first attempt, went on to miss a total of nine field goals and free throws and had five turnovers.
A year later, Jrue Holiday missed eight of 11 shots and debuted with just nine points and two assists in Orlando. And in 2010, Paul George and James Harden ranked among the summer league's leaders in turnovers.
Rose, Holiday, George and Harden all have something in common in addition to their initial summer league doldrums: They ultimately developed into NBA All-Stars.
So there just might be a blueprint for Burke to follow.
Even some of the best in the game once had to emerge from a humbling, summer NBA initiation in Orlando.
"It was good for me to learn from a different perspective," Burke said. "I didn't complain. It's a process."
That process literally made Burke a student of the game.
"I think it was huge for him to sit back this game," Lowe said. "Even if [we] didn't feel he needed to rest, I still think it was the best thing for Trey to be able to watch it."
It takes great vision to be an effective NBA point guard.
Sometimes, it also requires an even better view.