Former 'Bench Mob' member Watson returns to Chicago

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Former 'Bench Mob' member Watson returns to Chicago

The Bench Mob reunion tour continues Saturday night at the United Center with the return of C.J. Watson, now the backup point guard for the visiting Nets.

Its fine, its cool, Watson said prior to the game, after greeting a litany of former teammates, coaches and Bulls employees on the United Center court. A lot of emotions, but youve just got to go out there and play the game.

Watson has made a smooth adjustment to his new team, probably because hes used to his role of backing up an elite point guard in Chicago, it was Derrick Rose and in Brooklyn, its All-Star Deron Williams for a team in a major market.

Its been fun. Im just trying to get used to the system that Coach Nets head coach Avery Johnson and get used to my teammates, he said. I just try to go out there and be aggressive, lead the second unit and also try to go out there and play with Deron some, depending on matchups. So its good and I just try to go out there, and do my best.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau lauded Watsons performance with the Nets thus far after the teams practice Friday.

Hes a winning player, he said. Hes going to play for the team first and those guys could go a long way.

Watson also addressed a mild controversy from the offseason, when he reportedly ranked Williams above Rose in his introductory Nets press conference after signing with Brooklyn as a free agent in the summer.

Actually, I didnt say that, he explained. I said, To me, he was the best point guard. Then, I was asked who was better and he the reporter said, Compare the two, and I said, You cant compare the two.

While Watson remains close with some of his former teammates among them, Nets teammate Keith Bogans, whos one year removed from his stint in Chicago he isnt exactly pining to be back with the Bulls.

Ive watched some of the games. I havent really been keeping up with them that much, he said. I talk to Ronnie and Kurt all the time because theyre in New York, so I see them a lot. I try to keep up with John Lucas III and everybody else.

Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I had returned to Chicago, but you cant think about that because it didnt happen, the Las Vegas native continued. I try to take some of the stuff that I learned from Thibs, the defensive stuff and apply it to our team here because Averys trying to be a defensive coach.

"Just trying to teach some of the stuff that we learned in Chicago, because theyve been the best defensive team the last couple of years, so its always good to take away and learn, and take it somewhere else.

While he acknowledged his defensive improvement with the Bulls, Watson also joked that he didnt miss Thibodeaus famously long practice sessions.

No, he deadpanned. Not at all. I like these 30-minute, 45-minute practices.

Watson has mixed memories of his time with the Bulls, as he fondly remembers his experience with the Bench Mob, but also hasnt forgotten how last season ended, when he was a target for angry fans after passing the ball to Omer Asik, a subpar free-throw shooter in Game 6 of the teams first-round series with the 76ers, a contest that was eliminated the Bulls from the postseason.

It was fun because we all knew our role, we knew what to do and we knew who was going to get the ball, who was going to score and who was going to play defense. We just fit into our roles and everybody played their role to the best of their ability, said Watson, who noted that he never considered returning to Chicago at a lesser salary. The season ended how it ended. I wasnt worried about that. I knew I could do better. It was a critical mistake, maybe. But at the time, I didnt think it was. I just thought I kind of got mistreated, but it is what it is.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.