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Aaron Falk, Tony Jones and Steve Luhm cover the Utah Jazz and the NBA for The Salt Lake Tribune. The Tribune on Twitter - Aaron Falk: @tribjazz, Steve Luhm: @sluhm, Tony Jones: @Tjonessltrib

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Jamaal Tinsley replaces Earl Watson as Jazz's backup point guard

Atlanta — Utah coach Tyrone Corbin plans to initially bring Jamaal Tinsley off the bench as the Jazz's backup point guard Sunday night against the Hawks. With Tinsley in line to replace starter Devin Harris, Earl Watson falls to third string.

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Corbin said he'll talk to Watson to make sure the guard knows the move is not a demotion. And the 11-year veteran could see more action Monday at New Jersey, which marks the end of a back-to-back that opens the Jazz's three-game road trip.

But Corbin also acknowledged he's going with the hot hand. A surging Utah team's won six consecutive games, moving into a three-way tie for sixth place in the Western Conference heading into a matchup against the Hawks.

"It's a delicate thing because [Watson] deserve to play," Corbin said after shootaround Sunday morning at Phillips Arena. "But Jamaal's earned more minutes on the floor and the team's responding."

Watson missed five consecutive games from March 15-22 due to a sprained left ankle. He played the final two minutes of Utah's home win against Denver on Friday.

Watson said he understands Corbin's decision and will continue to fully support the team, since the Jazz are rolling and it's tough to run a three-point guard rotation. But with Corbin's move coming 10 days after the trade deadline and Watson under contract through 2012-13, the veteran acknowledged it's bad timing for his career.

"It's a business decision on both ends," Watson said. "I'll do my best to stay ready, stay professional. But also consult with my agent and see what's next."

He added: "I don't know if you can win your spot back. It's not like it's practice time or it's game time or minutes played. I think it's a coach's decision, and more power to him."

Watson, 32, is averaging 3.1 points, 4.5 assists and 21 minutes in 42 games (one start).

"I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have a problem playing on any other team, so it's not like I'm out of the NBA," Watson said. "Just stay ready and just let my agent figure all the business side out."

Tinsley rarely played for the Jazz for the first 39 games of the season. But when Watson re-injured his ankle March 14 at Phoenix, Tinsley smoothly stepped into a backup role. After starting the 2011-12 season in the NBA Development League, Tinsley's recorded double-digits in scoring in three of the Jazz's last seven games, while dishing out at least five assists in four of the contests.

Tinsley, 34, is averaging 3.6 points, 3 assists and 11.7 minutes in 22 games (one start).

"They both [deserve to play] and there's just not enough time," Corbin said. "I don't want to put a guy out there for two minutes."

Watson on missing a week due to injury and losing his spot: It's just the way it is. But it's just unfortunate it happened after the trade deadline. So timing of the season is bad. But there's always options. You just stay ready and stay professional and stay supportive. No matter where you at you want to win. So you cheer for your teammates. It is what it is.

Talking to his agent: I think I have to. It's a business on both ends. I have to see what he thinks is best. I'm sure he's going to ask about how do I feel. Physically, I feel great. We'll just move on from there. But I don't think it's that big of a deal. It happens everyday in sports. You just find a way to do it and you move on.

Winning his spot back: … Hubie Brown used to say there's only going to be 10 guys that's satisfied on the team. There's going to be two or three guys that's not going to like it. … Anything can happen in basketball, man. You see Josh [Howard] having a great year and unfortunately he gets hurt. Anything's possible. This game is, it's a long season.

Brian T. Smith

Twitter: @tribjazz



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