What a difference a day makes when you switch your point guards.
In what amounted to watching the pilot episode of “Point Guard Trap,” one highly touted rookie named Trey Burke sat the bench after starting the Utah Jazz first two games in Orlando NBA Summer League action while the other, Raul Neto from Brazil stepped on the Amway Center court for the first time today, and showed Burke how to run a basketball team.
Talk about a plot twist. And yeah, go ahead and scoff, Burke lovers. The fact is, the Jazz won going away 98-69 over the Brooklyn Nets, snatching up all seven tournament points in the process and put themselves in a great position to make the summer league playoffs, which begin on Friday.
At the risk of sounding like a complete jerk here, Burke, the No. 9 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, hasn’t exactly had a stellar beginning to his first basketball in a Jazz uniform. You would have to be a complete moron to not understand that he is not grasping what the Jazz are supposed to do on the floor.
In his first two games the Jazz scored a grand total of eight points, including all seven the first day when Burke missed 11 shots and bounced around and off defenders like a pinball and not in a good way.
To make matters worse, Burke has shot 6-for-27 in his first two games in Orlando NBA Summer League. Was the problem one of hesitancy to a degree? Uh, not hardly. In fact, it’s been the latter; he’s trying to do too much. He has had trouble getting around screens; he has bulled into opponents needlessly without kicking the ball out to an open man; and most important, he hasn’t run the offense very well at all.
In sum, he looks exactly like the last guy the Jazz dumped a pile of money and invested a boatload of time into — or Devin Harris — and we all know how that turned out. Harris had a high motor, a ton of confidence and some nice offensive skills but he never did what the Jazz needed him to do, and that’s run the dadblasted offense with efficiency while keeping things under control.
Now, nobody is expecting Burke to do too much in what is largely considered a complex offense to begin with but it’s also clear that Burke is causing Jazz fans a little acid indigestion even in summer league play.
On the other hand, fellow rookie Raul Neto led his team up and down the court, playing like the second coming of John Stockton. Neto ran the offense like he’d been there before and seen the Jazz for years — when in fact, he hadn’t; he has only been on the sideline watching the Jazz play for one week, knowing that he couldn’t play until FIBA cleared him.
But, when he did get a chance to play — and that day came today once he finally received clearance — he did not disappoint in the slightest.
Though it’s only one game of watching Neto slice and dice opponents like a Ginsu knife — and most importantly, kick the ball out to an open guy when he didn’t have the shot — he did his damage in just 18 minutes of play.
Seven points and four assists was his stat line — to go with three turnovers, not exactly stuff of legend — yet he had his share of eye-popping, no-look, Stockton-esque precision passes to open teammates that made you think, if only for a moment, that the Jazz might have something special in the No. 47 overall pick from Brazil.
When Neto cut through the lane it was as if those wooden seas were again parting, that familiar stroke of genius that only little John from Gonzaga could do, winding his body into fits and stutters, in and out of harm’s way and into open court, dolloping the play with an underhand scoop if he was able — or slinging a no-look pass into the painted area into a teammate for an easy shot.
Stock always knew his place, and so for Neto, who grew up under the watchful eye of his father, a former pro player, and the tutelage of the same coach who groomed Ricky Rubio, to put some of those traits to use, well, you wouldn’t blink twice if you were him — thinking he had it made. He doesn’t.
Instead he was wide-eyed in the NYC, acting like he was the most grateful kid in a half-empty building in Brooklyn by the time his name was finally called at No. 47 — well after Burke and his homies had headed for some draft celebration/party at some swanky club.
Possibly the most interesting and appealing part to Neto’s game today is that he didn’t make any excuses for his lack of playing time due to some basketball rule; he just played, shut the hell up about his ability, studied his butt off in the interim, learned the Jazz offense as well as he could and listened to every single tidbit of information he was given by Jazz coaches, his father and his many coaches along the way.
In all actuality, that’s how Stockton played his entire career in Utah and became a Hall of Famer. It wasn’t always pretty but it was efficient and as time went on, little John, always cleancut and quiet, got the job done more and more until he stood alone in a sea of point guards who ran their mouths as often as their basketball motors.
What Jazz fans saw today was a glimpse of the future perhaps — and it will be interesting to see who starts tomorrow when they tip off against Indiana at 9 a.m. MST (NBA TV).
Jazz – Nets highlights: http://www.nba.com/video/games/nets/2013/07/10/20130710-sl-uta-bkn-recap…
UPDATE – Early Thursday morning the Jazz lost to Indiana 79-73. Burke shot a dismal 3-for-15 from the field, scoring eight points in 26 minutes. However, he did notch four assists to go with those eight points — and committed just one turnover. By comparison, Raul Neto played half of the minutes Burke did, scoring just three points and committing one turnover. Looks like a point guard controversy is brewing in Jazz land…the Jazz play one more game in the NBA Summer League and will not advance to the championship. They are now 2-2 overall.
Highlights of Jazz-Pacers: http://www.nba.com/video/games/jazz/2013/07/11/20130711-sl-ind-uta-recap…