20 in 20: It's surprising, my dear Watson

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20 in 20: It's surprising, my dear Watson

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
6:33 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

15. Which Bulls player will be the biggest surprise to fans this season?

This is widely pegged as a season in which Derrick Rose takes his game to a new level and Joakim Noah becomes an All-Star center. There are hopes for more consistency out of Luol Deng and continued development from Taj Gibson. Carlos Boozer is obviously the most noteworthy newcomer to the Bulls and expectations are optimistic for the his former Utah teammates, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.

But a player who could provide an unexpected lift this season is a less-ballyhooed acquisition, backup point guard C.J. Watson. In his third year in the league--after first plying his trade overseas and in the D-League--the University of Tennessee product's per-game averages included 10.3 points, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per contest, all career highs, with Golden State. In addition, he shot 31 percent from beyond the three-point stripe, a decrease from his 35.1 percent career mark.

Granted, Watson played more minutes--27.5--than he will behind a healthy Derrick Rose, and he will have to play within more structure than with the free-wheeling, defense-optional Warriors. Still, he gives the Bulls a true backup point guard, something that didn't really exist last season, although starting shooting guard Kirk Hinrich served as Rose's defacto understudy.

Unlike last season, however, the Bulls will usually have a bigger backcourt, as Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Keith Bogans--all at least 6-foot-5--gives them more size paired with Rose, as opposed to Hinrich, and after John Salmons was traded, Flip Murray. Of course, Watson, a scoring point guard, is also capable of playing alongside Rose.

For those unfamiliar with further specifics about his game, Watson, while not necessarily a knockdown shooter, will likely be one of Chicago's better outside threats, as he can hit jumpers both from a standstill position and off the dribble. Although he wouldn't be considered a premier distributor, he is at least capable of running an offense. While he'll need to make an adjustment to defend up to new Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau's stringent standards, he was one of Golden State's better defenders, although that backhanded compliment isn't saying much.

Those aspects of the Las Vegas native's game should all serve him well in Chicago, but perhaps his most important attribute is serving as an insurance and rest behind Rose (as of right now, Watson is the only player under contract that could effectively run the point, although the leading scorer for the Bulls summer-league entry, point guard John Lucas III, has been invited to next week's training camp), equipping the Bulls with both a more-than-adequate backup and a serviceable starter in case of injury. In addition, if the Bulls plan to employ a more up-tempo style of play, Watson has experience at pushing at the pace from his time with the Warriors.

Averaging even low double-figure scoring numbers for back-to-back seasons is probably out of the question, but Watson is capable of going off on an individual spurt in limited minutes and gives the Bulls their best backup at the position since Chris Duhon. Assuming he makes the adjustment to a more disciplined style of play--and stays away from boxer Floyd Mayweather--it's imaginable that Watson has a handful of games in which he not only offers a positive change of pace off the bench, but steals the show with his energy and scoring prowess.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

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Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

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When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”