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.
Its fine, its 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 youve just got to go out there and play the game.
Watson has made a smooth adjustment to his new team, probably because hes used to his role of backing up an elite point guard in Chicago, it was Derrick Rose and in Brooklyn, its All-Star Deron Williams for a team in a major market.
Its been fun. Im 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 its good and I just try to go out there, and do my best.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau lauded Watsons performance with the Nets thus far after the teams practice Friday.
Hes a winning player, he said. Hes 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 didnt 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 cant compare the two.
While Watson remains close with some of his former teammates among them, Nets teammate Keith Bogans, whos one year removed from his stint in Chicago he isnt exactly pining to be back with the Bulls.
Ive watched some of the games. I havent really been keeping up with them that much, he said. I talk to Ronnie and Kurt all the time because theyre 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 cant think about that because it didnt 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 Averys trying to be a defensive coach.
"Just trying to teach some of the stuff that we learned in Chicago, because theyve been the best defensive team the last couple of years, so its 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 didnt miss Thibodeaus 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 hasnt 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 teams 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 wasnt worried about that. I knew I could do better. It was a critical mistake, maybe. But at the time, I didnt think it was. I just thought I kind of got mistreated, but it is what it is.