The uniqueness of an NBA training camp is a team of players, are simultaneously battling for playing time while trying to build a unit that can win together. In the midst of those positional battles lessons are taught from veterans to youngsters.
This year at Jazz camp one of the toughest battles is for shooting guard minutes between Randy Foye and Alec Burks. At the same time, Burks is improving every day because he has to battle with a 6 year veteran like Randy Foye.
Paul Millsap and Earl Watson remember playing against established all-star veterans when they were 1st and 2nd year players and both know it improved their games.
For Watson it was a daily grind with future Hall of Famer Gary Payton ““I learned every trick of the trade, how to come off a pick and roll defensively, I think it was why I guard well because I learned from him, a coach can’t teach you what you have to learn from that position, to learn under him, a hall of famer, it made it easy for me to get knowledge immediately.”
At other times in his career Watson played alongside another developing player and it was not as fruitful, “I learned more going against a vet, playing against guys my age or younger we were both trying to figure it out it was like two kids in a candy store running wild trying to figure it out. When I was with Payton, I asked him to stay on top of me. He gave me the skills and knowledge to stay in the league as long as I have.”
Alec Burks has already had one of those experiences with Randy Foye this year in camp. Foye explained, “One thing he is picking up from me is work ethic, the other day we were going against each other and he was a little tired and I continued to put the pressure on him and he said in the locker room hey man I was tired you kept pressuring me and I told him there are time in the game where you can tell someone is tired and you have to just attack them all out and force your will on them.”
It was a learning moment for Alec Burks. One Paul Millsap had when he broke into the game playing against Carlos Boozer “In order for you to get better you have to compete every day against the best competition especially against someone who might be ahead of you or has more years than you. You learn the only way to get better is to work hard and to compete.”
The Jazz could have cleared the deck and left Alec Burks without competition this year. Instead, they brought in an established player with toughness like Randy Foye. This is making every day of camp far more difficult for Burks than the alternative.
Burks is loaded with skills. He is adjusting his game from being the primary scorer and primary possession user at Colorado to a part of a team in the NBA. At the same time he is learning even more valuable lessons from Foye.
Coach Corbin sees this as the next step for Burks. “It is good for Burks because he had a great summer. Last year, he learned the lessons of how to be under control and the summer league was very good for him we put the ball in his hands a lot and now the competition changed you come in against Randy Foye and Gordon Hayward he is learning now that every night is top competition.”
Randy Foye understands his role in Burks development, “It is important for him to see the work ethic; you build your values when you are young.”
Every day another piece of the Alec Burks foundation is being built. In camp it is being done by competition.