Burke Seizing Second Chance

While listening to the Knicks broadcast Monday night, (Ed Cohen and Brendan Brown are a must hear!) it was pointed out that Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lamb was averaging a career-high 13 points this season, up from his previous high of nine points last season.

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Lamb is in his sixth NBA season. When he came out of Connecticut, I thought the lanky 6-foot-5 shooting guard would be an instant double-figure scorer. He had the frame, a good mid-range jumper and the ability to get to the basket.

Lamb, the 12th player picked in the 2012 NBA Draft, didn’t become a double-digit scorer until Year Six.

Which got me thinking about Knicks guard Trey Burke, who dropped a career-high 42 points on the Hornets in a 137-128 OT loss in Charlotte.

[Hahn: Burke’s NBA Rebirth Continues With Career Night]

This is Burke’s fifth NBA season. He’s averaging 12.2 points, .6 off his season-best averages in his rookie year of 2013 and again in 2015.

Then, Burke’s career started to slump. By last season, he was seeing just 12.3 minutes per game and averaging a career-low five points for the Washington Wizards.

He started this season in the G-League and his future was as dim as the MTA’s subway service this summer.

“I think last season there were times opportunity got taken away from me,” Burke told reporters in Charlotte. “People would say, ‘It’s your fault.’ Others would say otherwise.

“I think this is the first time since my rookie season where I’m in a situation where I can play extended minutes, I can play through mistakes. I don’t make one or two mistakes and I’m snatched out of the game.”

Burke was making his second start of the season. Emmanuel Mudiay had become the Knicks’ starting point guard three games after he was acquired in a trade deadline day deal with the Nuggets.

Mudiay didn’t set himself apart from the crowd the Knicks have at point guard. Burke got his chance, a second chance to prove he could be a regular contributor.

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He’s chomped down on that opportunity like a Golden Retriever refusing to give up his favorite tennis ball. Burke scored 19 points in his first start in almost three seasons Sunday night when the Knicks beat the Wizards.

Sometimes revenge is a dish best served in the boxscore. Burke scored his 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He added three assists, three steals, and two rebounds in 19 minutes against the team that all but broke his confidence.

Turns out that was just the appetizer.

Burke drained 19-of-31 shots against the Hornets, handed out 12 assists (against just two turnovers) and became the first Knicks player to go for 40 or more points and 12 assists since Bernard King in 1985.

It took him 41 minutes to drop the 42.

Wonder what he’s got in store for Wednesday night’s game in Philadelphia against the 76ers?

Burke, the ninth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, doesn’t have to, nor is likely, to put up such huge numbers every night.

What he has to do is continue to show the Knicks that he can be a consistent backcourt threat. It took Lamb until his sixth season to find himself. Burke might have ‘refound’ himself in his fifth season. He certainly sounds like a player that has found that comfort zone.

It might be. The Knicks have the option to pick up Burke’s contract next season. At the least, that seems like a no-brainer. Whether or not he’s the answer as the team’s starting lead guard remains up for debate.

At 6-foot-1, 191, he gives away inches on some nights. Kemba Walker of the Bronx, Charlotte’s starting point guard, took over the game in overtime, scoring 11 of his 31 points in extra time.

Walker has been the man in Charlotte. Burke is trying to let the game come to him and not force this chance.

The feeling here is that Burke remains best suited to providing instant offense off the bench. But if he plays the way he has over the final seven games, it might require rethinking his role.

The important thing is for Trey to continue to be Trey. If he does that, his second chance at making a name for himself in the NBA might turn out to be better than the first chance.

Sometimes it just takes time, patience and perseverance for a player to find himself. It happened with Lamb. It’s happening with Burke.

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