Trey Burke adjusts to new role coming off Utah Jazz bench
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder took a bit of a gamble when he decided to swap starting point guards five games ago. The experiment has been a success, thus far.
The Jazz have gone 3-2 since Trey Burke was moved to the bench in favor of 2014 No. 5 overall pick Dante Exum. The victories include a home win against a Warriors team with the Western Conference's best record.
Burke was the No. 9 overall pick in 2013 and started 68 games while being named to the NBA All-Rookie first team last season. He'd started 41 games this season before Snyder made the move.
The two had an extensive talk during which Snyder told Burke he needed to see more on the defensive end, but also wanted to inject some life into the second unit. Exum, at 6-foot-6, is naturally more disruptive on the defensive end, even when out of position, due to his length.
''Decisions like that, they're complex,'' Snyder said. ''(The defense,) that's one part of it that I think he's taken seriously. The other part of it is, what he's been able to do with that group is substantial. When you're not able to score for a period of time, it can be demoralizing. ... At some point, your will, your resolve on the defensive end begins to weaken when you're unable to score.
''It's not like punishment, either. That's the totally wrong way to look at it. More than anything, it's helping Dante, too, and helping our team.''
Burke has averaged 14.6 points, 2. 6 assists and one turnover in the five games off the bench. The win over the Warriors on Friday was an example of the boost Burke can give the second unit. He was aggressive and scored 15 points, but also handed out seven assists. The bench scored 51 in a 110-100 victory.
''I'm starting to get used to it, but I don't really feel like I've got a new role,'' Burke said. ''Coach still wants me to play the same. I'm still playing the same amount of minutes. Even though I'm coming off the bench, I feel like I still need to bring that same mentality. Still need to come out and compete, just be aggressive.
''We understand to be a really good team in this league ... you have to have guys coming off the bench that can score the ball and make plays as well. Most of the good teams, you see their bench, they have guys that can be starters.''
The entire team has been short on scorers with Alec Burks and Rodney Hood out with injuries. Snyder said that Burke started games looking to get teammates Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter involved. He still wants Burke to facilitate off the bench, but it also gives Burke a little more freedom to look for his own shot.
''I don't think I look at it as I can get more shots up, but I definitely try to come in and be more aggressive,'' Burke said ''Coming off the pick-and-roll, being more aggressive doesn't necessarily mean just shooting that pull-up shot that I usually get.''
Backup forward Trevor Booker added, ''Since he's coming off the bench, we've been scoring a little more off the bench and (had) a little more leadership on the court.''
Snyder knows players are competitive and want all the minutes they can get. Snyder told them they can be upset with him, but not to let that affect the chemistry with teammates.
The talk between Snyder and Burke certainly helped things on the front end. Burke said he's asked to be held more accountable and understands the situation.
''He basically told me, `I'm just holding you accountable. I know it's going to make you stronger,''' Burke said. ''He told me, don't think you're just going to be coming off the bench the whole season. It's something we talked about, but I understand why. I know I have to bring more to the table.''