Don't expect to see Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks on the court anytime soon. After missing 55 games in 2013-14, 50 games last season and all of this season so far, the guard had ankle surgery on Tuesday and is out indefinitely. Burks, 25, had surgery on that same ankle and his left knee in June and was initially expected to participate in training camp. How frustrating.
Following multiple medical consultations, Burks underwent a successful arthroscopic procedure Tuesday to debride his left ankle. The procedure was performed in New York City by foot and ankle specialist Dr. Martin O'Malley.
Burks will return to Salt Lake City to begin his rehabilitation and will remain out indefinitely. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.
If Burks comes back from this and plays like his old self, he'll probably catch a lot of people by surprise. He has become the forgotten man in Utah because he's been sidelined so much, but he could be one of the best reserve guards in the league. The problem is that it's increasingly unclear whether or not he will be able to stay on the floor and play the way he used to, getting to the rim at will and drawing fouls. Since a collision with Paul Pierce sent him crashing to the floor last December, he has appeared in just three games.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said Burks just couldn't reach a point where he was pain-free and ready to play, so another surgery was the best option, via the Salt Lake Tribune's Aaron Falk:
The procedure, Burks' third since fracturing his leg during a hard fall during a game last December, removed an extra area of bone between Burks' tibia and fibula, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said.
The guard underwent surgery to repair his fractured left fibula last Dec. 29 and later had arthroscopic surgery to clean out debris from his left knee and ankle on June 8. While Burks and the Jazz were optimistic about the player's health at the start of training camp, the sixth-year guard was still dealing with pain in his leg.
"When he would hit a certain threshold dynamically or hit a threshold with how long his workout went, he started to experience some pain," Lindsey said. "We feel terrible for Alec because he's done everything we've asked ... [but] we expect the debris was the issue."
From Burks' perspective, this is rough. With the addition of George Hill, the return of Dante Exum and the signing of Joe Johnson, it looked like this would be the year where Burks would have to become as efficient as possible to carve out playing time. He's sure to be rusty when he comes back, and the Jazz might not be in a position to let him play himself back into rhythm.
Injuries in general have derailed Utah as it has tried to make the playoffs the last couple of years, and it's unfortunate that this one is continuing to be an issue. Fortunately for the Jazz, the front office brought in Johnson and Boris Diaw as veteran reinforcements in the offseason in order to help them withstand setbacks like this. Johnson's presence, in particular, lessens this blow, as he can provide scoring and playmaking on the wing.
Still, if Utah is going to become an upper-echelon team, it would help to have Burks in the lineup. He gives the team an additional shooter and someone who can create offense when opponents are loading up on the Jazz's other weapons. There should be a role for him here.