On the court, Alec Burks spends most of his practice days matching up with David Stockton. To simulate game action, Burks gets on the treadmill and runs.
Most games these days are spent at the end of the bench, far away from Quin Snyder’s rotation. The term “stay ready” has become his motto, even if seldom needed.
In Friday night’s 96-91 series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Burks was needed in the worst way — and came through in a big way.
Pressed into action after point guard Ricky Rubio left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, Burks came off the bench and scored 11 points in 17 minutes.
“It’s easy for a coach to tell a player to stay ready,” Snyder said. “But, Alec has done just that. Tonight, he was able to make a big impact.”
Burks’ performance proved significant for the Jazz, because the rest of their bench struggled. Jae Crowder went 2 of 10 from the field and scored five points. Jonas Jerebko went 0 of 3 from the field and was held scoreless, while Dante Exum played three minutes and registered a turnover.
Burks, though, was able to find a rhythm in the first half. He drove to the basket, drew a foul on Carmelo Anthony and hit a free throw that allowed him to calm down and become a part of the game. And on a night where the Jazz needed someone other than Donovan Mitchell with the offense stagnant in the first half, Burks was able to provide much-needed creativity.
“There’s a lot of value in being able to stay ready,” Burks said. “Everything comes back around. That’s kind of what I believe in. I was able to get going tonight.”
Burks has always been a player who could get to the basket off the dribble and draw fouls. But, his spot-up shooting has typically been, well, spotty. It’s something he’s tirelessly worked on with Jazz assistant coach Jeff Watkinson, and the work paid off on Friday night.
Burks hit one 3-pointer — but it was one of the biggest shots of the game, a corner 3 with 9:30 remaining that gave the Jazz an 81-73 lead. And with Utah struggling to score for much of the fourth quarter, every bucket proved huge.
“I just feel like I’m fearless as a player,” Burks said. “I’ve always been that way, and I’m going to be that way until I’m not in the league anymore.”