Earl Watson was upgraded to a game-time decision for tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks, an encouraging sign after the veteran point guard has missed the last two games due to a bone bruise and small, non-displaced stress fracture in his right leg.
Watson did light work during practice on Tuesday, but said he did not know if he would be ready to play Wednesday night. He injured the leg a week ago against New Orleans in a knee-to-knee collision. He played two nights later against Portland Trail Blazers but was pulled out of the game after, he said, "I just felt like I couldn't really move, I didn't really know. I knew it was something different and unique and abnormal."
The Jazz have tried to get by piecemeal without Watson and starter Mo Williams, but have largely put the onus on combo guard Alec Burks, with mixed results. Watson said he had some words for Burks during the Jazz's overtime win over Sacramento on Monday, in which Burks played the final 22 minutes of the game and finished with 14 points.
"I think he was trying to run the offense a little too much," Watson said, "and we had a talk on the bench, and I told him to just be aggressive, don't try to run the offense, don't play the way you see anyone else playing, be who you are. Be aggressive. They want to pressure, go around them. Make them guard you. You can't sit there and be a pass-first point guard if that's not who you are."
Here's the rest of what Watson had to say:
How did it feel to get some practice time Monday?
It was minimal activity. I feel good, I'm getting better. This injury I have is unique, it's day-to-day, it could change throughout the day so I try to stay positive and take it in the moment and capture each moment and whatever I can do in that moment just take advantage of it.
How concerning is fracture part of the injury?
It's not concerning, it's small. It's not cracked all the way through. So I felt it when I got hit, I knew something was wrong. It was a collision, it was from the side, which I guess is more of a football collision. Guy's playing hard, you can't really be upset with it, the other guy.
Does the absence of Mo Williams and a generally dearth of point guards add to the urgency to get back?
I try to come back as soon as possible anyway because I think it's a small window of opportunity you have to play in the NBA and to play basketball, so I want to take advantage of it and compete and have fun. That's what I live to do, so to me I want to get back because I love the game, and for two I want to help my team, just to close out the break strong. We have a great opportunity right here and we want to take advantage of it.
How encouraged should fans be that Watson was upgraded from doubtful Monday to a game-time decision Tuesday?
It's progress for me. I think with a stress fracture it's anywhere from one to four weeks. The thing with me is I always think I'm healed and I'm not. I guess that's the positive and the negative of who I am. But for me I'm just going to come back later, see how it feels and try to get some rest in between.
Could he play tonight?
I don't know. I can't even tell you. I can't put a percentage on it. I hate seeing my teammates being undermanned but I love seeing them fight and still pulling out victories. There's still a positive no matter what, I'm going to do whatever I can to help my team.
What does he think of Alec Burks' transition to point guard?
He's had some amazing moments. I just tell him to focus on the positive, be more an aggressive point guard. Someone you're going to see tonight is Monta Ellis. He can play both positions, but when he gets the ball at the point he's really aggressive. So that's a great role model for him to watch or a guy to look up to as far as a guy who can play both positions. Both explosive.
Has the point guard position evolved to be more friendly to more aggressive, athletic guards? I think you have to be who you are in the situation you're in. I think the point guard position, Hubie Brown always say is the hardest position to play in the NBA is the point guard and the center. The point guard because of the mental aspect of it and the center position because he said everyone was men in that position, like physically strong. I think those are two tough adjustments. I think Alec is going to do the best that he can and he's going going to always be aggressive and confident. He might make some mistakes, but mistakes are a part of basketball. To me, I don't care how many mistakes he has, just so long as he does it in an aggressive fashion.
What changed for Burks between the first and second halves against the Kings?
I think he was trying to run the offense a little too much and we had a talk on the bench, and I told him to just be aggressive, don't try to run the offense, don't play the way you see anyone else playing, be who you are. Be aggressive, they want to pressure, go around them. Make them guard you. You can't sit there and be a pass-first point guard if that's not who you are.