This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Trey Burke's career is heading into unchartered territory, a fact that can be unnerving for any NBA player.
No longer is the Utah Jazz point guard a former lottery pick guaranteed playing time for Quin Snyder's team. No longer can he count on consistent minutes and shots within the offense. Heading into Thursday's matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, Burke is in a competition that can vary by game.
And he easily could fall out of Snyder's rotation.
That's what makes his performance on Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets all the more impressive. Burke could've sulked when the Jazz traded for Shelvin Mack and almost immediately made him the starter. Instead, he lit the Rockets up in what was a great fourth quarter for him and helped Utah to one of its biggest wins of the season.
"Honestly, I just tell myself not to worry about what everyone else is talking about outside the group," Burke said. "I know I can play this game, so I know I have to be aggressive on offense and focus on defense. I have to allow the defense to help the offense. That's how I'm looking at it."
Snyder has said the Jazz point guard situation will revolve around feel: Who's playing well, who has a good matchup on a given night.
So far, Mack's the only floor leader that seems guaranteed playing time on a nightly basis. The remainder of the minutes have been divided between Burke and rookie Raul Neto, who started for most of the season before the Jazz acquired Mack on trade deadline day.
In losing to the Spurs, Burke did not have much impact. He played 11 minutes, and scored five points on 2-3 shooting from the field. He didn't play in the first half. More concerning, he didn't play well defensively, surrendering a trio of 3-pointers to San Antonio guard Patty Mills, two of which appeared avoidable.
Still, Burke's teammates have noticed the way he's handled adversity. He's never pouted. And Tuesday's performance clearly shows that he's mastered the art of staying ready.
"We have a lot of respect for him in this lockerroom," Jazz forward Joe Ingles said. "He's a guy that's very mentally strong and has a lot of character. We appreciate that about him."
As much as anything, Snyder playing three point guards consistently doesn't appear to have a long shelf life. It's almost like a football coach playing multiple quarterbacks: Eventually, that coach needs to choose.
That makes Burke's situation all the more dire. He knows he has to perform well in order to command minutes going forward. For the first time in his career, the shine of his lottery pick status has worn off.
Now, Burke has to earn it.