Utah Jazz: Earl Watson back to doing drills on court
Los Angeles • Call it Earl Watch. Earl Watson, the Jazz's veteran point guard, has dutifully given near-daily updates on the status of his surgically repaired right knee, and just as regularly has said he did not have a specific return date and that progress was ongoing.
Before the Jazz played the Lakers at Staples Center, he had something new to say: For the first time since April, he participated in basketball drills during Saturday's shootaround.
"That's a progression," the 12th-year point guard said. "That's a big step forward. Pretty much everything started today, but we're building it slow."
Watson traveled to Los Angeles with the Jazz for their five-day, three-game road trip and dressed Saturday night but did not play. Earlier this camp, Watson targeted opening night on Halloween against Dallas for a return.
Watson underwent surgery in April to fix a torn medial meniscus. Saturday was the most positive sign that the guard is on his way to moving past the injury. The next step, Watson said, is getting the rest of his body conditioned to playing full speed again.
"It felt good," Watson said, "but I've got to get in better shape better wind, so to speak. It's nothing like basketball shape you don't know it until you play it."
While Watson had been able to shoot and jog for months, Saturday marked the first day, he said, of being able to cut and sprint, putting full exertion on the knee.
"The main thing," he said, "is to get my quad stronger, get my hamstring stronger, continuing to lay the foundation for the season, for the rest of my life, so to speak."
The Jazz on Saturday got their first look at a revamped Lakers team, which added perennial All-NBA performers Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to an already potent lineup led by Kobe Bryant.
Throughout training camp, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin declined to lament the growth of the rival Lakers, and stuck to that Saturday.
"The guys are proven winners in this league," Corbin said. "They're all together now, they're older and smarter in their careers, and they want to win it all, and this team is built to win it all right now."
The Jazz didn't get to see the Lakers at full strength, as Howard continued to rest following offseason back surgery.
Still, it was easy enough for Corbin to imagine what the unit looks like. He'll get to see it three times in the regular season.
"You have to admire what they've done to get this kind of talent together," he said, "and now let's see it work as a team."
Reserve Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley rejoined the team for Saturday's shootaround after missing Friday's game against the Thunder for personal reasons. Power forward Paul Millsap remains away from the team after flying to Atlanta on Friday for the funeral of his grandmother.