Burke-KCP debate rages on, though neither thinks of it
Auburn Hills — It never materialized into the battle many expected it to be, but many Pistons fans who also love a different shade of blue always will wonder "what if" in regards to the team taking Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in last June's draft over Trey Burke, now a member of the Utah Jazz.
Burke led Michigan to its first Final Four since the Fab Five days, and seemed to be an ideal fit for the Pistons, at least to some. Instead, the Pistons chose Caldwell-Pope eighth, thus causing a mini-uproar. Burke then fell to the Jazz, who rallied to beat the Pistons on Sunday.
So far, Caldwell-Pope is having a better start to his second year than Burke, who's struggling from the offensive end, shooting 33 percent from the field and 23 on 3-pointers.
Caldwell-Pope took a step back after rebounding from a slow start of his own, scoring 11 but shooting just 3-for-13 from the field Sunday. For the season, Caldwell-Pope is averaging 13 points and 4.5 rebounds, a huge jump from last season.
"The looks are there, the shots aren't falling," said Burke, who scored seven points in 24 minutes against the Pistons on Sunday. "As a player you can't think of that. I struggled with this a little last year. Confidence can't waver. I feel 98 percent at this level is mental."
Burke made the All-Rookie first team last year, averaging 12.8 points and 5.7 assists, but the Jazz drafted Australian point guard Dante Exum with their top-10 pick a few months ago, prompting more than a few raised eyebrows about whether the brass truly believes Burke can elevate his game at the NBA's deepest position.
"I definitely think the future's bright for us," Burke said. "Obviously you're gonna go through some down times as a player, you just have to fight through it. We don't know all the answers and we can get better on both ends of the floor."
The Jazz tried Exum as well as Alec Burks at point guard Sunday, and it's clear they're still evaluating everyone, with a young team all around.
"It's going great. Dante is young, learning," Burke said. "The more we play on the court, the better we'll be. Sometimes he can bring the ball up and I can play off the ball."
Burke had his share of Michigan fans in attendance and received a nice ovation upon being introduced as a starter.
So far, it appears the expectations about a smooth transition to the NBA — and by proxy, making the Pistons look like fools for selecting anyone else — hasn't come to fruition, although he admits playing the Pistons can bring about feelings of what could've been.
"Yeah, you think about it from time to time," Burke said. "I'm sure a lot of people think, if they didn't have the number one pick, where they could've ended up besides the spot they're at right now. I don't try to come out and prove nobody wrong. I have a lot of friends and family coming to the game, so I want to perform well but the most important thing is trying to win."
Caldwell-Pope, a man of many thoughts but few words on the matter, didn't really understand the fuss when the selection was made back then, nor does he think about Burke specifically when the two meet.
"For me, I'm not thinking about it," Caldwell-Pope said. "The organization picked who was the best player or best fit for the organization. It was out of my control."
Caldwell-Pope said before Sunday's game he wouldn't have minded guarding Burke, but it never came to fruition, and he didn't bring anything extra into the game.
"No. It's not bothering me," Caldwell-Pope said.
"It could, but my energy comes from my teammates and me being KCP."