Former 'Bench Mob' member Watson returns to Chicago
December 15, 2012, 6:53 pm
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.
“It’s fine, it’s 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 you’ve just got to go out there and play the game.
Watson has made a smooth adjustment to his new team, probably because he’s used to his role of backing up an elite point guard — in Chicago, it was Derrick Rose and in Brooklyn, it’s All-Star Deron Williams — for a team in a major market.
“It’s been fun. I’m 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 it’s good and I just try to go out there, and do my best.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau lauded Watson’s performance with the Nets thus far after the team’s practice Friday.
“He’s a winning player,” he said. “He’s 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 didn’t 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 can’t compare the two.’”
While Watson remains close with some of his former teammates — among them, Nets teammate Keith Bogans, who’s one year removed from his stint in Chicago — he isn’t exactly pining to be back with the Bulls.
“I’ve watched some of the games. I haven’t really been keeping up with them that much,” he said. “I talk to Ronnie and Kurt all the time because they’re 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 can’t think about that because it didn’t 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 Avery’s trying to be a defensive coach.
"Just trying to teach some of the stuff that we learned in Chicago, because they’ve been the best defensive team the last couple of years, so it’s 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 didn’t miss Thibodeau’s 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 hasn’t 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 team’s 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 wasn’t worried about that. I knew I could do better. It was a critical mistake, maybe. But at the time, I didn’t think it was. I just thought I kind of got mistreated, but it is what it is.”
Tags: Tom Thibodeau
, CJ Watson
, Derrick Rose
, Chicago Bulls
, Deron Williams
, Omer Asik
, John Lucas III
, Keith Bogans
, Brooklyn Nets