If you’ve followed this column at all over the past few years, you’re probably aware of how I feel about Jazz backup point guards Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson.
They’re genuinely good guys.
Of course, neither is a Jazz original, so when they arrived in Utah I wasn’t quite sure what to think. However, through my duties as the Standard-Examiner’s Utah Jazz beatwriter, I found each man to be very considerate and personable, which makes my job a whole lot easier.
Because they’re both veterans — Tinsley is 34, Watson is 33 — they understand the business they’re in. They deal with the media and fans like professionals, not like petulant brats, which is always a good thing.
I also noticed how each felt a responsibility to mentor his younger teammates. Sitting near the Jazz bench during games, I couldn’t help but smile as I’d see Tinsley jump up to shout instructions — and encouragement — to a younger teammate on the court. I found it interesting that as soon as a timeout was called, Tinsley and Watson were usually the first two guys off the bench, trotting out to the court to meeting their teammates as the came to the sidelines.
So, yes, I’ll admit I’ve developed a certain fondness for those two wily vets.
But having declared all that, let me also add this: I think it’s great both Tinsley and Watson are getting extra playing time now that starting point guard Mo Williams is out of commission following thumb surgery. However, it’s time for Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin to start finding more minutes — significant minutes — for second-year guard Alec Burks.
Burks, 21, isn’t a prototypical point guard like Tinsley or Watson. In fact, while playing at Colorado, he was used primarily as a two-guard. At 6-foot-6 and over 200 pounds he’s got the size of a two-guard but he also possess the quickness and ball-handling skills of a point.
When put on the floor with teammate Gordon Hayward — himself a surprisingly effective ball-handler — Burks doesn’t even necessarily need to run the offense. With the two of them in the backcourt at the same time, the team is remarkably effective, especially when playing up-tempo on the offensive end.
That’s exactly what happened during the Jazz’s Jan. 7 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Corbin played a hunch of sorts and kept Burks and Hayward on the court together during the fourth quarter of a close game. Together they scored 15 of Utah’s 26 points in the quarter and the Jazz pulled ahead down the stretch.
Each player hit a clutch 3-pointer and they combined to go 7-for-10 from the free throw line.
There was a similar chemistry brewing when the Jazz beat the Bobcats on the road Jan. 9.
Burks played a season-high 28 minutes in that game and Utah rolled to a 112-100 win. He scored 12 points to go along with four assists and three rebounds. Burks, Hayward and Derrick Favors, each in his early 20s, came off the bench to give the Jazz 36 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, three blocked shots and two steals.
Funny thing though, the Jazz lost to Atlanta on Friday, blowing a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. Granted, each game has its own set of circumstances (some of which media and fans simply aren’t privy to) but Burks’ playing time dropped to just seven minutes.
Going into Saturday’s game at Detroit, the Jazz’s record stood at 19-19, second-to-last place in the Northwest Division and two games removed from the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.
As the 2012-13 season’s halfway point approaches, I’ll ask the obvious question: What is there to lose?
Why not let Utah’s youngsters — Burks, Hayward, Favors and 20-year-old Enes Kanter — have a bigger stake in the second half?
And if that means some of the veterans have to do more mentoring from the bench as opposed to the floor, so be it.
It’s time to let the ponies run.