Q+A: Alec Burks
Discussing the future of the Jazz at adidas Nations.
by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
“Again, he’s such a nice young man. But you want him to have that killer instinct. You want him to step on the floor and just feel that I’m the best player on the floor right now, because he’s capable of doing so much. But I think over time he’ll get there.” —Utah Jazz assistant coach Sidney Lowe, Salt Lake Tribune, July 13, 2012.
Don’t let that shy, friendly smile fool you—Alec Burks is ready to become a nightmare for opponents on the hardwood. The Utah Jazz rising second-year pro capped off his rookie campaign with a wonderful showing at the Orlando Summer League in July, posting per-game averages of 19.5 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the floor in five starts. Burks’ play earned him first-team honors in the Orlando League, joining Austin Daye, Miles Plumlee, Lance Stephenson and Andrew Nicholson.
His showing in Orlando was a nice extension to his lockout-shortened rookie year, where he came off the bench in 59 games for the Jazz to average 7.2 points per contest.
Having recently turned 21, Burks expects to transcend this coming season. SLAMonline visited with the 6-6, 200-pound swingman this past weekend during adidas Nations pool play in Garden Grove, CA.
SLAM: How has it been playing the big brother role with the youngsters at adidas Nations?
Alec Burks: It’s great. I was coaching here last summer. It’s been cool, they just want to hear what it’s like to be in the League—how you made it and how hard you had to work. I tell them what they need to hear so they can be the next one.
SLAM: You had a nice showing in summer league this year. What was that experience like for you?
AB: It was great. I felt like I got more game experience and showcased more of my game that I’ve been working on since the season’s been over. So I feel like it was real good.
SLAM: What aspect of your game did you focus on improving this summer?
AB: I feel like I worked on everything. I didn’t just want to pick one area and my other areas lack. So, I feel like I had to work on everything to get better.
SLAM: How would you evaluate your rookie season?
AB: I feel like it was up and down. At first I didn’t think I was getting as much playing time as I should. But we had some injuries and I had a chance to show my talent and I felt like I was good toward the end.
SLAM: What was the most difficult aspect of your rookie year?
AB: Probably the learning process. I thought I was going to play a lot more than I got. The adversity—that was probably the biggest learning adjustment. You’re coming in like the man and you’re thinking you’re going to be the man again. It’s not like that; you got to build your way up again.
SLAM: Not getting the minutes was frustrating.
AB: It was, but I understood. I still had to pay my dues. It was probably more frustrating for the people around me that thought I should be on the court. I look back and I understand it will make me a better player.
SLAM: You have said that you would like to have the same type of growth that Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors showed during their second year. What did you mean by that?
AB: Gordon and Derrick took big leaps during their second year and they became great players. I’m just trying to do the same thing. I want to take what I learned during my first year and become a better player my second year.
SLAM: What has the team expressed to you regarding your role this year, will you have a chance to start?
AB: I got a chance, starting is up for grabs and I plan to take that and just be a bigger contributor than last year, show my growth as a person and as a basketball player.
SLAM: Utah has some nice pieces. You have a young frontcourt and now Mo Williams has been added as well. What does he bring to your team?
AB: We all know Mo’s a great player, great leader, great vet. I think he’s going to come in and add toughness to our team, make us better than we were. You’re right, we do have a young frontcourt and the future is bright for us too.
SLAM: Who were some of the guys you competed against last year that may have opened your eyes on how much harder you have to work in the League?
AB: There’s a lot. It’s Kobe, Dwyane Wade, James Harden—they showed me that if I keep working hard, maybe I can be at their level.
SLAM: Some critics thought Harden was drafted too high and wasn’t going to explode the way he did.
AB: They didn’t at all. But he kept working and got better every summer before the season. He’s shown what he can do.
SLAM: You guys are the only professional sports team in Utah. How’s that work out?
AB: We’re like the Beatles there. Everybody knows you since we’re the only team in town. They love the Jazz out there. They pack the arena every game and it’s a great experience.
SLAM: Can you go to a restaurant in SLC without anyone noticing?
AB: It’s crazy. They’re tweeting, taking pictures, want autographs. But I love it when somebody knows me because of what I love to do.