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Utah Jazz: Trey Burke's surgery leaves Jazz short-handed at point guard

SALT LAKE CITY — The Trey Burke news got worse over the weekend.

The Utah Jazz’s rookie point guard will have surgery to repair fractured bone in his broken right index finger. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Douglas Hutchinson Tuesday in Salt Lake City.

The Jazz said they’ll give an estimate for his return after the surgery is performed.

Utah begins its 2013-14 season on Oct. 30, and that rehab timeline would have Burke returning between Dec. 9 and Jan. 6. That could leave the Jazz’s starting point guard out of action anywhere from 22 to 36 games.

“It’s unfortunate,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “It’s part of the business — getting hurt and seeing how he responds.”

Burke attended Monday's practice but wasn't made available for comment. After getting injured Saturday, he said staying positive was important to him.

“He and his parents were in good spirits relative to what happened,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said.

Initially, Burke’s camp hoped the 20-year-old would return after three weeks. The ninth pick injured his shooting hand when he jammed the finger into Clippers star Chris Paul while passing the basketball in the first half of Saturday’s 106-74 loss to Los Angeles at EnergySolutions Arena.

This will be the first surgery in Burke’s life, Lindsey said.

“We’re going to miss him on the floor,” Corbin said, “but we can do some different things to try to keep getting him up to speed.”

That’s the positive spin the Jazz were trying to put on Burke’s impending unavailability. Lindsey said the Jazz staff, including trainer Gary Briggs and strength coach Mark McKown, has developed a list of objectives for the rookie to accomplish while sidelined.

“We’ll try to make lemonade and try to turn this period that he’s out with injury into a positive,” Lindsey said. “I think it will give Trey a chance to sit with coaches and reflect on what it means to be a Jazz point guard.”

Lindsey said Burke can benefit from the perspective on the bench and “through the lens of a coach.”

The Jazz will also work with Burke, helping with stretching and conditioning, in hopes that he’ll be physically ready to go when his finger heals.

“I’m confident we’ll use this time wisely,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey refused to comment when asked if there were any regrets about allowing Burke to re-enter Saturday’s game after he’d been injured. Burke said he didn’t damage the finger when he came back out, and claimed that he simply wanted to get back out there and help his team.

Lindsey remained vague about what the Jazz will do to strengthen the point guard depth chart.

Veteran John Lucas III will handle the starting playmaker duties in Burke’s absence. He averaged 16.5 points, 5.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds in two starts for Chicago in 2011-12 when Derrick Rose was unable to play. Those have been the only two starts of Lucas’ five-year NBA career, though.

“I think Ty has great trust in John and how he will treat this role going forward,” Lindsey said.

The only other point guards on the Jazz roster are NBA hopefuls Scott Machado and Lester Hudson. Lindsey said they both have an opportunity to make the squad.

The Jazz GM said the franchise’s front office is in an info-gathering stage right now, trying to determine whether there are attractive options remaining in the free agent pool or on other teams’ rosters.

One player who won’t be brought in this season: Raul Neto. The Jazz point guard, picked up in a draft-day trade with Atlanta, is committed to playing for a Spanish pro team and is unlikely to be bought out of that contract for multiple reasons, Lindsey said.

The Jazz lost a potential point guard candidate before camp started when Jerel McNeal, signed last season out of the D-League, opted to play in China instead of trying to make Utah’s roster.

It’s possible the Jazz could just stick with Lucas and Machado and use shooting guard Alec Burks when needed.

“We’ll let their play and level kind of dictate decisions going forward,” Lindsey said. “Anybody we could add, they would be in competition for a spot and a role with Scott and Lester.”

Burks said time spent training with John Stockton this offseason could help him if he needs to fill in at the point.

How about an older veteran like former Jazzman Jamaal Tinsley?

The Jazz know he’s available, but Lindsey gave an expected no comment. Corbin did mention that some available free agents’ price tag is too high for the Jazz.

In the meantime, the team that's more focused on developing its young core than fretting about win totals in 2013-14 will forge forward with 30-year-old Lucas at the point guard helm.

“We think there’s a fine line of understanding where the program’s headed with our youth movement,” Lindsey said, “but also being good enough and competitive enough when things like this happen to be able to play and stabilize our basketball team.”

Editor's note: Utah Jazz rookie Trey Burke's agent/father, Benji Burke, did not share information regarding the point guard's surgery nor did he give an anticipated return timetable of 8-12 weeks, as the Deseret News reported. The Deseret News regrets the error and inadvertent attribution.