Everybody adjusts different,” Lillard said. “He’s really competitive and confident, so it’ll be fun to see how he adjusts to the league. —Portland guard Damian Lillard, on Trey Burke
LAS VEGAS — Trey Burke’s summer struggles have been well-documented.
The national player of the year went 1 for 12 in his Utah Jazz debut two weeks ago.
The point guard who led Michigan to the 2013 NCAA championship game in April missed 18 of 19 3-point attempts and only shot 24 percent in his first four games with his new team three months later.
The ESPY award finalist for best male college athlete never found an offensive rhythm against guys who were bigger, quicker and more seasoned than most college athletes he outplayed so often.
Derrick Favors’ reaction to all of that?
Blah, blah, blah.
OK, the Jazz power forward, who watched Burke and Utah play in Florida on TV, didn’t exactly say that.
“That don’t worry me, because I had a tough summer league too,” Favors said this week while participating in a Team USA minicamp. “His shot was off, but everybody’s shot will be off.”
Favors has never met Burke or even talked to him, but he saw enough of his new point guard’s play with the Wolverines to be excited for the future pick-and-roll pairing. He’s confident the player Utah traded up to get on draft night will have his confidence restored when the team begins preparing for the 2013-14 season.
“Hopefully, he’s in the gym working on it, getting his mind right,” said Favors, who’s sounding more and more like a team leader. “I think he’ll be ready for the season.”
Favors isn’t the only one who won’t let a rough first Jazz impression dampen enthusiasm for Burke’s potential in Utah.
Gordon Hayward, also participating with USA Basketball, liked the poise he saw from Burke even while his shot was off.
“It didn’t seem like he got rattled too much," he said during a team visit in Orlando, "and that's definitely a good sign.”
“We’ll get him better there,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin added. “He’s going to be a good player in this league for us.”
One player who’s curious to see that development is also a guy whom Burke would be wise to emulate.
Just a year ago, Damian Lillard was in a similar position — first point guard drafted, high expectations after a sensational college career, picked up by a young team in a transitional period and lots of minutes (likely) to be played as a rookie.
“I know that he was big time at Michigan. He could really score the ball in college, nice range on his shot, pretty good playmaker, really good at changing speeds,” Lillard said. “But it’s an adjustment coming to the next level.”
Lillard got off on the right foot with a strong summer showing in 2012, so that helped boost his confidence from the get-go and put him on a path of success that he calls “surreal.”
Not only was the Weber State standout named the NBA Rookie of the Year for 2012-13 after averaging 19.0 points and 6.5 assists with Portland, but Lillard was also invited to participate with USA Basketball alongside talented, young point guards like Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Ty Lawson.
“I knew that I had to make it to the NBA first,” Lillard said after Wednesday’s practice at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. “Then I knew I had to be good enough to play in the NBA. Then I had to be successful in the NBA to have this opportunity, period. ... It all happened fast.”
Some believe Burke is on the fast track, too.
Not long after the Jazz traded their 14th and 21st picks to Minnesota for the No. 9 selection in the June 27 draft, the 6-footer was listed as an early favorite to be 2013-14 Rookie of the Year by a Vegas oddsmaker and CBS Sports.
Burke has his sights set on something even bigger — becoming an NBA All-Star.
He’s got a long path ahead of him to get to either spot after Orlando.
“Everybody adjusts different,” Lillard said. “He’s really competitive and confident, so it’ll be fun to see how he adjusts to the league.”
Fun is a good word to describe what it’s been like for many people to watch how Lillard thrived in that position. Despite how it appears from the outside, the Blazers’ young star admitted it wasn’t an easy process.
“It’s a challenge to do everything that comes with being an NBA player off the floor,” Lillard said. “That’s pretty tough.”
On top of that, Lillard said it's a balancing act “being responsible for a team” while not giving “the wrong vibe” to veterans and overstepping bounds.
“You don’t want them to think you know everything or think that you’re trying to take over the team, anything like that,” he said. “So you want to gain their trust.”
There’s more to it, he added.
“Then just stuff on the floor,” Lillard said. “You’ve got to tweak your game to where you can be successful being yourself but understanding that it’s tougher because of how the league is, how big guys are, how athletic they are.”
In other words, Favors was probably right about Burke getting to the gym.
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Blue Team: Harrison Barnes, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Damian Lillard, Greg Monroe, Klay Thompson, Dion Waiters, Kemba Walker, John Wall. Coach: Tom Thibodeau.
White Team: Ryan Anderson, Mike Conley, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, Paul George, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ty Lawson, Chandler Parsons, Tyler Zeller. Coach: Monty Williams.