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Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks poised to return this week

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Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, this story broke yesterday and I didn't write on it because I had other things going on in my life. And The Salt Lake Tribune's Tony Jones appears to be the newsman who broke the story. So props to him -- as far as I can tell, everyone else piggybacked. The long story short is that the Utah Jazz may be getting some help during their stretch run during this 2015-2016 season's #PlayoffPush. And that help looks like the return of combo guard Alec Burks. Jones, and SLTRIBBY bro Aaron Falk write:

Barring a setback, injured Utah Jazz shooting guard Alec Burks will make his return to the lineup as early as Tuesday night against the San Antonio Spurs, league sources tell The Salt Lake Tribune.

Burks has been out since late December with a broken fibula that he suffered against the Los Angeles Clippers. Burks underwent surgery in early January, and has been out since.

The Jazz have been cautious with his return, wanting to make sure he is 100 percent healthy and that there is no risk of re-injury. He's been slowly doing more from a basketball standpoint, and recently has been playing full contact 3-on-3 in a half-court setting.

When Burks does return, it's likely he will do so on a minutes limit. Still, he will give the Jazz a shot of energy off the bench. As Utah's sixth man, he was having a career season before going down, averaging 14.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He was also an integral part of Utah's triple-wing alignment, featuring Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward.

- Tony Jones, with contributions from Aaron Falk, Salt Lake Tribune, 2016

This is great news, as even I -- the eternal optimist -- was worried about seeing him return this season. Alec has missed 48 games this season (with the team going 26-22 over that span). While Utah did tread water without him his talents truly could have been helpful this season. In particular his ability to create his own shot, get to the line, and otherwise provide a scoring punch off the bench would have been nice on those nights where the Jazz offense stalls like a WWI biplane and starts crashing to the ground. Furthermore, the Jazz have great talent up front with their wing players in Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood. But it's a rather shallow pool after that. No Burks meant that Joe Ingles -- probably best as a 5th wing in a rotation at this stage -- was forced into playing 3rd wing minutes. Chris Johnson -- probably best as an in-active player -- was relied upon for important things every game and didn't deliver. Trey Burke has had to play shooting guard at times this year, which may end up being what he does in the NBA.

Who knows?

What I do know is that the Utah Jazz don't want to risk anything. That's why Burks has sat out so much. He elected to have more invasive surgery to have pins put in, with the trade off of less natural healing time. So this conservative strategy is one the brass felt they needed to take with their guy who played only 27 games last season. He is an expensive asset and a talent one too. And he's no good to the Jazz if he's not playing. Head coach Quin Snyder knows this, and he states:

"There's a jump between being OK and healed and being able to compete at a high level," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Friday, as he gave his daily update on the team's sixth man.

Burks has been participating in some on-court activities during "controlled practices." Meanwhile, Jazz continue testing Burks' body -- ” "everything from his balance to asymmetry in his legs. Is one stronger than the other?"

"There's a point where it's not wise for him to go out until he's hitting some watermarks," Snyder said. "The progression includes everything from shooting, lifting, jumping, cutting, to playing one-on-one, playing three-on-three and he's at a point where he's much further along in the process, but we can't say he's there or that he's going to be ready for Phoenix [on Sunday]. That's basically the process that we're in the middle of and it's been ongoing since our doctors said his ankle's healed, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he's cleared to play."

- Quin Snyder, as transcribed and elucidated by Jones, Salt Lake Tribune, 2016

As for the Phoenix Suns, he's still listed as out by the media guide at NBA.com, but his "closeness" is noticed by gambling websites. It's likely that he will step out on the court for the first time in a very long time against the San Antonio Spurs. I'm fine with that, he will have a minutes restriction in that game and the Spurs don't have a ton of athletic shooting guards or point guards to chase: Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kevin Martin, Andre Miller, and Tony Parker are all either non-athletes, old, or both. One guy, Patty Mills, isn't. But that's what Raul Neto is for.

This is good news for the Jazz who will need a shot in the arm to finish off this season. They are in the thick of things with the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets. And all help should be welcomed -- even by the vocal Alec Burks haters out there in Jazzland. Seriously. Kid is talented and good and does things no one else on the team can do.

Ultimately, I'm really happy to see Alec back on the court -- when he does happen. He is not being rushed back, which is better news than his return is, in my mind. I can't wait to see what he has in store for Kobe Bryant 's farewell game. The Utah Jazz finish the season against the Los Angeles Lakers, in what could be Alec Burks' fifth game back from injury.

Thanks again to Tony Jones for this great news. Talk old school hip-hop with him on twitter here: @Tjonessltrib