How Alec Burks is quickly proving his value, while fighting fatigue, for Detroit Pistons

Detroit Free Press

It took longer than many expected for Alec Burks to play his first game with the Detroit Pistons. But he’s quickly shown why the Pistons hold the veteran forward in high regard.

He scored 17 points off of the bench in his debut against the New York Knicks last Friday, and followed that with 15 points Monday against the Toronto Raptors. And he’s still getting his legs back under him, after missing seven months of action while rehabbing a left navicular fracture.

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“He’s still not in game condition, he raised his hand to come out,” Dwane Casey said after Monday’s 115-111 home loss. “He’ll get there the more minutes he gets, the more opportunities to practice. He’ll have an opportunity to get in great condition, because he gives us that punch off the bench, does a great job off the bench defensively and offensively. Really pleased to have him. I thought he did a really solid job again tonight.”

Burks, 31, was expected to be a floor-raiser for the Pistons when the team acquired him in a trade with the Knicks in July. The 6-foot-6 wing is a career 38% 3-point shooter and proven scorer. He has filled a clear need for an unproven, rebuilding team in need of reliable offense.

Through two games, he’s shooting 52.6% overall and 37.5% from 3. It’s a very small sample size, but it illustrates how effective he’s been. His 15 points Monday came on just seven shots, and he also played point guard in spurts because the Pistons were without Cade Cunningham (left shin soreness) and Cory Joseph (hip soreness). It’s not an unfamiliar position for him, given he played significant point guard minutes for the Knicks last season.

In the third quarter against Toronto, Burks scored seven of his 15 points and delivered a nice bounce pass to Hamidou Diallo that led to a 3-point play. He only played 3 minutes and 10 seconds in the fourth quarter, and 17 total minutes because of fatigue. After logging 25 minutes Friday, the Pistons held him out of Saturday’s game against the Boston Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back for rest. He still hasn’t played his best basketball yet.

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“It’s totally different,” Burks said Monday of live NBA action. “You can’t duplicate the NBA game. I’ve been trying my hardest to, but I can’t. Just glad to be out there so I can get my wind back and my rhythm

“I don’t feel right out there yet, but it’s getting close,” he continued. “I made a couple shots. It’s getting in. It’s a long road, I’ve been out for seven months. It’s going to be good days and bad days.”

It could take some time before Burks feels like his normal self, but the good news for the Pistons is that he’s already producing. Detroit’s bench is still bottom-three in the league in points per game but has steadily improved since Burks and Marvin Bagley III’s return last week. The Pistons have lacked stability. Burks is trying to provide some.

“It’s good to have him,” Bagley, who played alongside Burks with the Sacramento Kings during the 2018-19 season, said. “He can score the ball, as y’all can see. It’s been great watching him. I’ve played against him and I was on the same team as him at Sacramento. I know what he can do and it’s good to see him back out there getting into his rhythm, too, as well.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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