As veterans sharing one backup role, the Utah Jazz's two most-senior players spend their time on the bench, dissecting plays, discussing strategy. Essentially, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley are brainstorming and trading ideas for a time they're no longer on the same team.
But not as players.
"I think me and Jamaal will end up coaching against each other," Watson said.
The two players have a long history, as opponents as far back as AAU. Then with Iowa State, Tinsley nearly notched a triple-double (14 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds) to knock Watson's UCLA Bruins out of the Sweet 16 in 2000. They were both selected in 2001 draft, Tinsley by Indiana with 27th pick, Watson by Seattle with the 39th.
"We're both veterans guys that played against each other a lot," Tinsley said. "We never really communicated, but we know each other."
Since 2010, though, when Tinsley, now 35, signed with the Jazz out of the D-League, they began communicating in earnest. Invariably, those conversations eventually turn to coaching, a path they both intend to follow.
"We bounce things off of each other," said Watson, 33. "A lot. Especially like strategy. Sometimes on the bench we look at certain plays that are ran … discuss them. We're kind of like two young dudes in training to end up becoming coaches."
Watson's career path has followed great coaches and basketball minds. He said he signed with Memphis without looking at Seattle's offer because he wanted to be around Jerry West. He frequently quotes John Wooden and Hubie Brown.
Tinsley started 32 games this season, and averages 3.6 points 4.5 assists in 19.2 minutes per game. Watson, who missed the first dozen games of the season following knee surgery, started four games and averages 2.0 points and 4.0 assists in 17.3 minutes.
They are veteran guys who understand what's going on in the game," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "So when they're not in the game … they're talking to other guys about what they see."
And that translates naturally to coaching.
"We talk about either coaching in the college ranks or at this level," Tinsley said. "That's two things that we both want to do. It's coming to the end of our careers and we're planning the next chapter."
Hall of Fame
Watson entered the NBA in 2001 as a backup to Seattle SuperSonics legend Gary Payton. This week, Payton said he had been voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, although this year's inductees won't be announced until Monday. Much of what Watson knew early about being an NBA point guard came from Payton. Part of that came from the nine-team All-Defensive first teamer's relationship with John Stockton.
Payton, who called Watson "Baby Bro," treated Stockton different than most rivals, to whom he famously talked endless trash.
"Everybody we'd play, Gary just talked bad about," Watson recalled. " 'Oh he's not that good, I give him 40 easy, I lock him up.' But coming here to play Utah, he was like, 'Baby Bro, this guy right here? Oooh, this white boy is cold.' So he respected John Stockton."
Watson added: "He never talked crazy to John Stockton, he just played as hard as he could but he never verbally went at him."
Stockton, who retired in 2003, was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2009.