For an eight-year NBA vet who also spent four years as the starting point guard in the esteemed UCLA basketball program, Earl Watson has managed to remain largely off the radar of most NBA fans. Best known as a solid defender and a guy capable of initiating an offense, Watson has had career stops in Seattle, Memphis, Denver, back to Seattle and then on to Oklahoma City when the Sonics became the Thunder.
Royce Young, on the other hand, is a guy best know for running arguably the best Thunder blog on the innertubes, Daily Thunder. He has been a diehard follower of the team since its humble beginnings nearly one year ago and has certainly watched them play a lot more than you have. Fortunately for us, he agreed to spend some of his precious time answering a few questions about the new point guard the Pacers just acquired. And he did all for you. Because he cares.
Remember this moment if he ever asks you to give him a kidney.
As always, I supplied the Qs, he supplied the answers.
Q1. Watson had a subpar season statistically last year, even for him. I’m hearing that this can be attributed to his unhappiness with not playing as much due to the Thunder youth movement and the fact that he busted his thumb at the beginning of the year. What actually happened?
Royce: I think it was a combination of the two. He did have some thumb issues on his shooting hand for most of the season. When that finally healed up, he put up a couple of his best games. Another part was that he just didn’t play well. He wasn’t productive when he was on the court, he didn’t shoot well and he turned the ball over more than he ever had before. He was so unproductive that eventually Scott Brooks tried Chucky Atkins at the backup point behind Russell Westbrook. Chucky Atkins! His thumb injury was definitely a large part of it, but it just seemed like Earl got in a rut when he got put behind Westbrook and he was never able to break out of it. His bad attitude didn’t really start until he was put at the end of the bench behind Atkins, so I don’t know how much that had to do with it.
Q2. How did he look on the court when he was playing?
Royce: At times, really good. He was always a threat for a fancy pass or a nice lob. He was a quality defender and played hard for the most part. But he was also the worst elbow jumpshooter I’ve ever seen and sometimes it seemed like he was on the court by himself. He forgot about teammates and would just shoot at will.
Q3. His three-point shooting was atrocious last year (23.5%), particularly in the 15 games he played in during the second half (16.1%). What was that all about and do you think he can bounce back above 35% next season in Jim O’Brien’s spread offense? He was up over 38% when he was playing with Ray and Rashard in Seattle’s free-wheeling, shoot-em-up offense back before your town hijacked the Sonics. Can he get back to that level?
Royce: He just took bad shots. Most the threes he took were forced and came low in the shot clock or with a hand in his face. He really has awful shooting form and it was just kind of a miracle if it went in. I’m sure for the most part, the low percentage was just bad shot selection. But some it also is just because he’s not a very good shooter.
Q4. Were you upset to see him leave?
Royce: Absolutely not. He really drove me crazy. He took a lot of bad shots and would force passes. It almost seemed like he played with a chip on his shoulder, but the wrong kind of chip. Like when he was on the floor he wanted to prove HE should be getting the bulk of the minutes. He forced the issue and wasn’t much of a team point guard. Plus, he just looks plain weird.
Q5. Indiana hasn’t made many major acquisitions this offseason. Is there any reason Pacer fans should get excited about picking up Earl Watson?
Royce: Umm, I wouldn’t. But we kind of tried to talk ourselves in Etan Thomas this week, so it’s not like I would blame anyone for doing it. Earl can be a nice player. He’s a perfect backup point guard that can give you 20 good minutes a night. But that’s if he can accept that role. If he pouts and presses the way he did in OKC, then you’ll be a little sad 15 games in. But if he settles into a role, he could make you pretty happy I think. He’s not going to blow you away and rejuvinate his career or anything, but he can be productive for sure.