CHARLOTTE It’s one thing to look like Allen Iverson, and it’s quite another to play like the former MVP.
Trey Burke has the first part down pat. The second part? Let’s just say he’s hoping this career makeover in New York at least puts him in the stratosphere.
“I want to get there one day,” he said. “I believe I will.”
Burke doesn’t lack confidence or physical characteristics similar to Iverson from the cornrows to the tattoos to the small stature. He said it wasn’t done purposefully “I just got sick of cutting my hair” but it’s hard to ignore that Iverson was Burke’s favorite player growing up, and he patterned many of his basketball moves from the retired offensive dynamo.
“More than anything, it’s the movements,” Burke said. “When I stepback and I crossover, that’s all from watching him.”
Burke, of course, veered in a much different direction than Iverson’s career path after being drafted ninth overall in 2013. This stint in New York is already Burke’s third chance to prove he’s not a total bust, and he’s finally winning that argument albeit in a small sample size and in a largely losing environment.
After outplaying Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina, Burke took over the starting position Sunday and led the Knicks to an upset win over the Wizards. In 28 games, he’s averaging 11.1 points over just 18.2 minutes while shooting 52 percent.
Unlike when he was just handed the spot as a rookie in Utah, Burke won the Knicks’ starting position.
His defense and passing remain concerns, but this is probably the most efficient stretch of Burke’s career. The 25-year-old said he never felt this comfortable in the NBA.
“I think last season there was times opportunity got taken away from me,” Burke said of his one-year stint with the Wizards. “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 is on a minimum contract with a team option for next season. It’s a safe bet the Knicks will pick it up and decide whether he’s best served in the lineup or coming off the bench. They could be in position to draft point guards Trae Young of Oklahoma or Collin Sexton of Alabama, which would alter the entire dynamic.
But at least now New York has evidence to show what Burke is capable of doing and it’s a lot more than what Mudiay was contributing.
Burke said he contemplated just signing for the remainder of the season and testing free agency this summer, but was looking for stability for his 3-year-old son.
It’s not a convincing explanation since a team option comes with no guarantees (negotiating a new contract with the Knicks in the summer would’ve been financially preferable), but there’s little doubt Burke is happy in New York while playing alongside his former college teammate at Michigan, Tim Hardaway Jr.
After all, Burke started the season with short-cropped hair in the G League. Now he’s the Knicks’ starting point guard with Iverson cornrows.
“I learned to let Trey be Trey,” he said. “After a while you want to get somewhere comfortable, you want to get somewhere where you see yourself being there for the long run. I really believe New York is the place like that for me.”