Right now our potential Rookie of the Year candidate Trey Burke is hurt. So we don't know how bad it is, but it could be as bad as 8 weeks. Depending on what happens on Tuesday, after his surgery where pins will be placed in his middle phalynx of his right index finger, the Utah Jazz world will know more for sure. If you look at the schedule here's what goes down depending on how many weeks he may miss.
Week 0 (This week):
Today is the day of surgery. We have one game, it's a preseason game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Who cares? Games missed: 1 preseason
Four more preseason games, @ Oklahoma City Thunder, @ Los Angeles Lakers, @ Los Angeles Clippers, vs Los Angeles Lakers (initially reported as vs Clippers, will change this this weekend on the schedule). These are all preseason games. Preseason is important, but it's not THAT important. Games missed: 5 preseason
This is when the real games start, vs Oklahoma City, then @ the Phoenix Suns, and then vs the Houston Rockets. No Russell Westbrook, up against Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, and then against Jeremy Lin. Important measuring sticks for sure, we'll miss him. But missing these games doesn't sink our season, or his. Games missed: 3 regular season, 5 preseason
The Utah Jazz go on a four games / five nights Eastern Conference road trip here facing off @ the Brooklyn Nets (and Deron Williams), @ the Boston Celtics (Rajon Rondo), @ the Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose), and @ the Toronto Raptors (Kyle Lowry). I'm not crying about missing these games as a Jazz fan. Trey is a competitor and may be feeling better at this point, but no need to rush it. Games missed: 7 regular season, 5 preseason.
The Jazz play three home games after that trip, then go out and play a mean back to back. Home games against the Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, and San Antonio Spurs will be fun for fans and important games for Burke to learn in. The roadie at the Golden State Warriors will be facing a team our squad has faced before and beat. It will be harder to do it without Trey though. Happy Birthday Trey, though! Games missed: 11 regular season, 5 preseason
This is the earliest we can expect Trey back with the best case results, provided the surgery goes as planned. Golden State again, the Pelicans again, and a second game down against the Dallas Mavericks. Would I want Trey back after 5 weeks? No. Games missed: 14 regular season, 5 preseason
Okay, this is where the "window" of returns comes up. We have three off days after facing the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls. We can get a practice or two in here, and then return at the end of November to face off against the Phoenix Suns in a back to back. Trey's conditioning will be out so he may not play heavy minutes in both games, or even in both games. I can't say. But this is a "window" of return for sure. If he misses these games, he'll be at games missed: 18 regular season, 5 preseason
Is missing 7 weeks out of the question? No, not at all. This week doesn't have an 'easy peasy' return window but I don't want Trey to return prematurely. Nor do I want him to feel pressured to return by a date that's easy for the team. He doesn't want to miss too much time, he's a fierce competitor, but this is now December of the Jazz' season. Home games against the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and Sacramento Kings -- with a roadie up at the Portland Trail Blazers. Games missed: 22 regular season, 5 preseason
After Week 8 from the injury should be the "real goal" for recovery I think if we're honestly in a "no pressure to win" season. But you can't hold a guy down. If he isn't ready he shouldn't play in these important games against four other Western Conference foes (two of which who may not make the playoffs this year): vs Portland Trail Blazers, @ Sacramento Kings, @ Denver Nuggets, and vs San Antonio Spurs. Games missed: 26 regular season, 5 preseason
This is the latest possible week if you are on the best case idea of 4-6 weeks recovery you'll be happy with, but the earliest possible week if you are on the worst case idea of 8-12 weeks for recovery. This is another four game Eastern Conference road trip, @ Miami Heat, @ Orlando Magic, @ Atlanta Hawks, and @ Charlotte Bobcats. Only difference is this is 6 days not 5 days. As an aside, remember when we did this and went 4-0 with Deron Williams and Paul Millsap powering the way under Jerry Sloan? Ah, memories . . . Games missed: 30 regular season, 5 preseason -- and kiss any chance of the Rookie of the Year award goodbye.
In the middle of December we have another three nights off before a home game -- an easy landing spot where some rest and practices can happen. If you are holding Trey back for these ease of entry points into the roster, this is the second one. It's really "late" by my standards (I was on the record stating 8-12 weeks was "fishy" to me, if you follow me on twitter (and if you do, God bless you, there should be a support group) then you would have seen this.) Three games, Grizzlies on the road, then a break, then the Lakers at home, then the Clippers on the road. If we get Trey Burke back here a lot of fans will be upset that he did not return sooner -- but there's no reason to rush the guy. His CAREER is more important than his rookie year. If he misses these three games he'll be at games missed: 33 regular season, 5 preseason. And we should be in full development mode.
So this is the end of December, meaning that if Trey misses 11 weeks he'll miss the first two months of the season. (October doesn't count, sorry Wiccans) It's not the auspicious start to his career that we all dreamed off, but it's the beginning of his career. The beginnings rarely count If he misses this week he'll miss our second stab at Al Jefferson and the Charlotte Bobcats (this time at home), then the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. Games Missed: 36 regular season, 5 preseason.
If Trey is coming back after 12 weeks then we're in the super duper lottery chase. So, who cares... well, we still care, and we have the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers this week, with a two day break in between. We could see Trey here. But if he's sitting out we're at games missed: 38 regular season, 5 preseason. For food for thought, there are 82 regular season games, and 8 preseason. This means he could play in a max of 44/82 games, and 3/8 in the preseason. This is not a season that dreams are made of.
But is Trey Burke going to miss 12 weeks?
I'm not a betting man, but if I was, I would take the under here. I haven't examined Trey, I'm not a hand surgeon, and we don't have ANY idea how things are going to play out. But 2.5 months is just ridiculous. Especially not with today's modern medicine, and Trey's rare combination of discipline and competitive nature. He's not going to be missing this much time. But what these week by week snippits tells you that there's no need to rush him back, and that there are a few days that are easier to insert him back with the team than others. The overall idea should be not to rush him back, and recognize that rushing him back doesn't help the big picture goals of this team. He himself tweeted out 4-6 weeks. I think that's way more probable than 12.
The Big Picture Goals:
What are the Big Picture Goals? The big picture goals this year are to better understand a) the quality and nature of the players on the roster, and b) understand the relationships and benefits these individual parts have together, as a greater whole. The whole season is supposed to be about mixing and matching. Some nights Enes Kanter will be the top scorer, but not every night. Some nights Alec Burks will come off the bench, but not every night. And so on.
Some nights we'll have Trey as the undisputed QB of this club running things. We're not going to know how valuable he is, if we're being rational empiricists here, if we also don't see how well or poorly we do without him on the court. This is the perfect way to quantify how much of a positive affect he has upon his team mates -- but also a great way to judge how good his team mates are without him. If one of our bigs are able to demonstrate legit back to the basket ability then we will know that we don't need to spoon feed them with a Trey Burke pick and roll. If our bigs can't then we know we have to spoon feed them.
This season is ALL about the big picture. We need to know our players, and know how they work together. I'd rather have Trey dominate the second half of the season than the first half anyway. If he dominates the first half and misses the second then we do not have recent information heading into the off-season where moves are made. If he dominates the second half he builds momentum for the rest of the team, and helps with some individual awards too (like Rookie team, or ROY).
And the real issue here isn't about this season either. The Big picture is the next three seasons. So if this year is bad don't stress out, or try to make a drastic over-correction during the season. Anyone who has practice driving on ice knows this rule well. If you over-correct while skidding expect to be put in a worse situation than you started in. I don't expect Dennis Lindsey to have much experience with snow, but I do have full faith in him that even in the WORST case scenario that he's not going to err towards over-correction and try to make a move for a point guard when we already HAVE all the point guard we need in Trey Burke.
Making a move for a 'starter' quality PG is a backwards move because this last off-season the team made it a point to do the opposite, and instead trust in Trey. Let's not lose Trust in Trey and try to get someone who would have done the same type of mischief as Mo Williams and crew, had we resigned them.
I trust in Trey Burke. I trust in modern medicine. And I trust the long term play of Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey.
Let's not over-react to anything, and just chill.