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SALT LAKE CITY — For the past five years at least, Tony Parker has been the envy of NBA point guards.
His game has led to All-Star appearances, All-NBA lists, and multiple championships. His influence on the past half-decade of basketball is unmistakable, and new players in the league have listed him as an idol, including Utah Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke.
Burke, who scored 20 points with five assists against Parker in Utah's 100-84 loss Saturday night, said the San Antonio guard has been a role model of his for some time.
“That guy (Parker), he’s terrific,” Burke said. “I just try to do my best staying with him, getting through all of the screens that they run for him. For a guy that’s been in the league so long, I didn’t know how he was able to just keep running.”
While Burke is the learner, even masters of the game like San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich note that Burke is a player who is influencing Utah’s recent uptick in quality of play.
“He (Burke) has done a good job, obviously, and he just makes things a little more whole,” said Popovich, who has the Spurs off to a 19-4 start. “He’s a very good player. He can score, he can distribute (and) he’s athletic, so it fills that position. It makes everyone else more knowing of what they’ve got to do.”
Still, Burke struggled at times to defend the agile Parker and it's a problem that Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin stated will change as Burke sees him more in game action.
“Tony’s a load, so there were a lot of lessons learned, especially in the pick and roll,” Corbin said. “(Trey learned) how the guy reads, when to attack to score, when to attack to pass, and the energy that he played with on each and every play on both ends of the floor.”
Despite Burke’s self-admitted struggles versus Parker, Popovich still said he was impressed with how the rookie handled the situation.
He's a very good player. He can score, he can distribute (and) he's athletic, so it fills that position. It makes everyone else more knowing of what they've got to do.
“He’s got a great demeanor,” he noted. “He doesn’t get excited about a good play or get down because there was a mistake. He’s a fine young man.”
Since Utah orchestrated its deal to bring the former Michigan star to Utah, Burke has been lauded for his energy and knowledge of basketball. Yet, he said, Parker is a star that he can emulate in trying to improve in his knowledge of the pick-and-roll, both offensively and defensively.
“He always has the defense on their heels,” Burke said. “In transition, he’s looking to attack. He’s getting everybody in the offense, quick. There’s definitely things that I can take from him.”
Now, the Jazz has the opportunity to play other NBA legends-in-the-making. Utah starts its annual pre-Christmas road trip at Miami. Burke said he is excited to face off against the Heat, specifically fellow Ohio native LeBron James.
“It’s going to be my first time playing against those guys (Miami),” said Burke, who attended James’ basketball camp while attending Michigan. “At the same time, I’m going to go right in there and compete. It’s going to be kind of weird being out there on the court with them, but I’m looking forward to going in there and trying to get a win.”