MEMPHIS As disappointing as the Bulls blowout defeat at the hands of the Grizzlies was a contest Derrick Rose missed because of his sprained left big toe one aspect of the game that was encouraging was the return of backup point guard C.J. Watson from a sprained left elbow.
Watson, who came off the bench behind normal third-stringer John Lucas III, scored 17 points in his return to the lineup. He made his first shot attempt, a pull-up jumper, but more importantly, he displayed no signs of hesitance, despite admitting that he played in pain.
It was all right. Its still in a lot of pain, but Im just trying to fight through it and play, he said afterwards. I can move it pretty good and I can shoot all right. The pain is going to go away, hopefully, throughout the season, so Im just trying to get out there and just play, and help my team.
Watson, who had nine attempts from the foul line, converting seven he also laid out on the court to dive for loose balls, showing hes unafraid of aggravating the injury, in another display of his lack of fear of contact had been diligently working to return to the Bulls lineup, traveling with the team on the road since the injury occurred, ironically against the Grizzlies, on the New Years Day, 40-point home-opener rout.
Ive been working out every day, but game shape is a lot different, said Watson, who originally hurt his elbow diving for a loose ball. But I just tried to go out there and play, and see how it felt.
I fell on it a couple times today. It still hurts, but Im out there, just trying to play, he added. It is what it is. Im just going to go out there and hopefully, I dont hurt it any worse and just play hard.
His coaches and teammates appreciated his effort, even in the wake of the tough loss.
Big positive, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Hes been working extremely hard to come back and you cant say enough about what hes done to get back this quickly, so that was a positive sign for us.
Added Luol Deng: C.J. played well. Its good to have him back and its good for him to have that type of game, but as a team, weve got to a better job. But individually, I thought C.J. did a good job when he came in.