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Morning tip: Trey Burke finding rhythm on Wizards' bench

Morning tip: Trey Burke finding rhythm on Wizards' bench

Transitioning from the starting lineup to a bench role comes easier for some than others. For Trey Burke, who starred at the University of Michigan before becoming the ninth overall pick in 2013, the move was very unexpected.

Burke had always been the star; growing up, in high school and in college. So, when the Utah Jazz made him a full-time bench player towards the end of his second season, he was in brand new territory. There were less minutes offered and less shots for him to take.

Burke was a volume shooter and for much of his NBA career has shot at a low percentage. Those problems were even more apparent when his window to play was smaller, when the leash offered to make mistakes became shorter.

Early this season, Burke's first year with the Wizards, he was still shooting at a low clip. Lately, though, that has changed. Burke isn't getting major minutes by any stretch, but he's found a way to make the most of them. Burke is currently shooting a career-best 45.8 percent from the field (up from his 38.7% career mark) and 45.5 from three. 

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Burke is playing more efficiently than he ever has. His 50.5 effective field goal percentage is a personal-best and fourth on the Wizards behind only Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal. 

Burke is averaging a modest 4.9 points in 12 minutes a night, but he's maximizing the opportunities given.

"I have to be ready to bring that spark. Be that spark off the bench on both ends of the court and change the pace of the game. I have to make the most of the time that I’m out there," he said.

Over his last 10 games, Burke is shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. 

"I think the game is slowing down. I wouldn’t say that I was rushing, but the game is slowing down. That’s from me watching film and getting extra shots up. I can pick and choose where my spots are going to be. I know where I can get my shots at," he said.

Burke choosing his spots is important to note. This season Burke has relied heavily on midrange jumpers. He's taking 21% of his attempts from 10 to 16 feet, up from 9.7% in his first three seasons. From that range he's shooting a strong 61.9% this season, up from his 40% career average. By sticking to midrange shots and being more selective with his threes, Burke is getting more bang for his buck.

For Burke, though, his objectives depend on the game. The four-year pro begins each game by watching closely how the starters set the tone. Then, he goes from there.

"It’s important for us to come out and throw the first punch, be the aggressor and everything else will take care of itself," he said. "Everything is all about rhythm. Sometimes the game is going fast or sometimes it might be a halfcourt game. I think it’s just about adjusting to the pace of the game and being efficient as possible each time down.

"It’s the feel for the game. When I come in, if we need points, I know in my mind that we need points. If I come in and somebody’s hot or other guys are hot, it’s my job to get them the ball. It’s really about just feeling the game out. Coming off the bench, obviously that was a different perspective for me than growing up and always starting. I get to see the game. I get to see an All-Star point guard [in John Wall] every night and see how the rhythm of the game is going. I’m learning from him as well. I’d be dumb not to pick up on some of the things from that guy over there. I’m learning every day."

Burke has been playing some in three-guard lineups recently, whether that be with Wall and Bradley Beal, or with Marcus Thornton in the mix. Burke likes when head coach Scott Brooks goes to those looks.

"I think it’s good because we can play to our strengths. Like in transition, we’re faster. Driving and kicking opportunities are higher because I feel like all three guards can knock down open shots and all three guards can create as well. Sometimes it’s a different three guards, but for the most part when he does have three guards out there guys are able to create and make plays for each other. That’s good for our offense," Burke said.

The emergence of Kelly Oubre, Jr. has dramatically changed the outlook of the Wizards' bench, but Burke may not be far behind. He, along with Jason Smith and Thornton, have started to show improvement over the last several weeks where the Wizards have won seven of their last 10.

After shooting 3-for-5 in 12 minutes against the Bulls on Wednesday night, Burke talked about the Wizards' bench and how it has come a long way since Marcin Gortat said they were among the worst second units in the league.

"I definitely know we don’t have the worst bench in the league," Burke said. "We've got a lot of really good players on this team."

Lately, there have been some signs to back that up.

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Report: NBA, players discuss withholding up to 25% of remaining salaries if season is canceled

Report: NBA, players discuss withholding up to 25% of remaining salaries if season is canceled

If the rest of the 2019-20 regular season is canceled, the NBA may be able to keep up to 25 percent of the salaries its players receive after April 1, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

League officials are in discussions with the National Basketball Players Association about a deal that would amend the collective bargaining agreement to give players a greater share of the financial damage inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak that’s put the current season on hold.

Wojnarowski writes that while the NBA has “no plans to announce the cancellation of games in the immediate future,” it’s preparing for all scenarios, including one in which coronavirus isn’t contained in time to salvage the regular season.

The NBA has already been withholding 10 percent of the players’ salaries with the promise of paying out the remaining 90 percent through April 1. In accordance with the CBA’s Force Majeure provision (reserved for catastrophic events), that money has been held by the NBA with a certain percentage slotted to be returned to teams at the end of the year depending on how much revenue is lost.

However, it appears the 10 percent cut has not been sufficient for softening the blow dealt by the season’s suspension. Per Wojnarowski, Commissioner Adam Silver and about 100 top league officials have already agreed to 20 percent pay cut. With team owners handling their own financial ramifications, the league is hoping for its players to help alleviate that burden and prevent the NBA from having to recoup additional percentages from the players after the season.

The purpose of the Force Majeure is to prevent the salary cap and luxury tax from taking a nosedive next season and beyond. By recouping additional salary, teams would be in better standing for spending relatively close to what they’ve done the past few years.

If the two sides don’t come to an agreement, players could owe back portions of their salaries at the end of the season. In an effort to avoid seizing past salaries, the league is asking the NBPA to agree to a deal while working on a plan to help players budget their spending based on reduced incomes.

As much as the NBA would like to resume its regular season in some fashion, the coronavirus pandemic has entirely changed the outlook—both logistically and financially—of professional sports in 2020 for the worst. Everything the league does now is just part of an effort to limit the damage as best it can.

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Rui Hachimura to take on Donovan Mitchell in first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament

Rui Hachimura to take on Donovan Mitchell in first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament

NBA fans will get a chance to watch some of their favorite players go head-to-head once again, just not in the setting we're used to. 

With the regular season under suspension, the NBA announced the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament, featuring 16 players who will play each other in NBA 2K20 for $100,000 donated to coronavirus support efforts. 

The tournament will begin on April 3 on ESPN and will include the following players seeded 1-through-16 based first on their 2K rating and second on their seniority in the league:

1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets (96)
2. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks (90)
3. Hassan Whiteside, Portland Trail Blazers (87)
4. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (87)
5. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (86)
6. Andre Drummond, Cleveland Cavaliers (85)
7. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (85)
8. Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers (85)
9. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers (85)
10. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (85)
11. DeMarcus Cousins (81)
12. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets (81)
13. Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards (79)
14. Patrick Beverley, LA Clippers (78)
15. Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings (78)
16. Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat (78)

Each player will choose eight current NBA teams to use before the tournament starts, though they can only use each of their selections once. The first two rounds are single elimination, while the semifinals and finals will be best of three. 

Wizards standout rookie Rui Hachimura enters the tournament as the No. 13 seed and will begin the tournament against Utah's All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell Friday. Mitchell may have a higher 2K rating and status in the league, but there's no telling where either player's 2K skills stand. 

Hachimura could very well take Mitchell down and set up a showdown with the winner of Andre Drummond vs. DeMarcus Cousins. 

The first round will begin Friday and run through the weekend, with the second round airing next Tuesday and the semifinals and finals wrapping up the tournament on Saturday, April 11. 

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