Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Posted: 2:09 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
As if playing without Carlos Boozer weren't enough for the Chicago Bulls, it looks like the Ides of March have wreaked havoc on Joakim Noah, too.
After Tuesday's shootaround, head coach Tom Thibodeau said that Boozer will miss tonight's game against the Washington Wizards due to his ankle injury and that Noah will be a game-time decision after he was sent home with an illness.
With the possibility of being without two key players and Derrick Rose having to pick up some of the scoring load, it could be an opportunity for C.J. Watson to step into the spotlight a bit.
Playing behind Rose, it's easy for Watson to go unnoticed. In the approximately 13 minutes he plays nightly, the soft-spoken point guard averages a modest 4.8 points and 2.1 assists.Tom Thibodeau to appear on "The Dan Patrick Show" Wednesday at 9:05 a.m.
By the numbers, this isn't the season he expect, nor did diligent Bulls fans expecting him to be more of a scoring threat, given his past two seasons in Golden State, when he averaged around 10 points per game. But don't lump Thibodeau into that category of observers.
"C.J.'s played very well all season," said Thibodeau. "Whenever C.J.'s gotten extended minutes, he's played even better. We felt good about him going into the season and I think he's exceeded all our expectations."
While Watson has occasionally shown some of the scoring ability he displayed more often with the Warriors--for example, his 16-point, eight-assist, five-rebound performance Saturday or his 33-point explosion in November against the Nuggets when Rose missed the game with a sore neck -- his role with the team's second unit as a ball-pressuring point guard, capable outside shooter, savvy penetrator and underrated playmaker have been more valuable to the Bulls.
"I'm just trying to go out there and make some plays, whether it's offensively or defensively. I'm just trying to play well, so he Thibodeau doesn't take me out," Watson told CSNChicago.com. "It takes a little time for me to get adjusted to the system and all the play calls. Everybody wants the ball and it's the first year with a lot of new players, so now I'm just a little more comfortable trying to get my shots and get others shots."
Added Thibodeau: "C.J. can get a lot going with his defense, too."
"C.J. can really shoot the ball, too. We're starting to see it more and more, but he's a great shooter, he's clever with the ball, he's very effective in the pick-and-roll and he's done a good job of getting Kyle shots, and now they're also starting to make plays for each other ... he's done a great job. You judge a point guard more by how the unit's playing when he's on the floor," he continued. "He's a very bright guy and he picks things up quickly. He played for Don Nelson, who's a great coach. That helped him in some ways; in a lot of ways. He picked things up very quickly here. That was the challenge for us right from the start of the season. With so many new guys, how quickly could we get all of them on to the same page? He made that adjustment very well. He got his unit playing great. They feed off of each other and they're bringing a lot of energy to the game each and every night."
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Watson isn't much of a talker -- he doesn't say much to the media, although he's certainly not unfriendly and is clearly popular with his teammates -- and while he isn't as dynamic as Rose, he's become noticeably more vocal on the court.
"He's sort of quiet -- he's not quiet when he's around his teammates--but he's very confident and he's prepared himself," observed Thibodeau. "He's got that second team executing great right now."
Of course, Watson would love to see more minutes--his effectiveness with Rose when Thibodeau pairs them against smallish opposing backcourts may come into play in the postseason, depending on the Bulls' opponents -- but when you're backing up the likely league MVP, it's hard to see where the minutes would come from. At the same time, after toiling in the minor leagues and overseas, then playing for a less-than-competitive Warriors team, Watson is appreciative of his experience on a contender.
"It feels great," Watson told CSNChicago.com. "Going home at night, it's a lot better than losing and just thinking about the playoffs is a whole other feeling."Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.