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Utah Jazz: Earl Watson nears return from knee surgery

Published November 14, 2012 7:34 pm

Jazz notes • Out since April, veteran has OK to play.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Boston • Veteran point guard Earl Watson rejoined the Jazz on Wednesday, armed with medical clearance to resume full on-court activities following six months of rehab for knee surgery.

"I think I'm there," the third-year Jazz guard said. "I don't think there's any more steps to take. The next step is game step."

Watson did not dress for the Jazz's game against the Celtics on Wednesday at TD Garden, but could be close to a return.

"We'll see how he goes and how his body responds," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We're going to increase his activity a little bit and see how he responds to it."

Watson missed the Jazz's Monday win in Toronto to undergo tests in Southern California. He said the tests measured the balance in each leg as well as "strength and impact."

Following the tests, Watson received a green light — medically, at least.

In basketball terms, Watson said, there are still a few things to work out.

"I think it's timing," he said. "I think it's meshing, integrating with the team, slowly but surely, and making sure I can keep the rhythm of the team the same."

Watson, in his 12th NBA season out of UCLA, has not played for the Jazz since Easter. Last year he averaged 3 points and 4.3 assists for the Jazz, primarily in a backup role to Devin Harris.

Back to Boston

Al Jefferson sat courtside following the Jazz's shootaround Wednesday and swore that there was no sentimental value in returning to play the Celtics, the team that drafted him No. 15 in the 2004 NBA Draft.

Then the Jazz center started talking.

"This is my first home," he said. "This is the team that gave me a chance. Much respect to Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers for that, because they're the ones that pulled me out of Prentiss, Mississippi."

Jefferson averaged 10.28 points in 199 games over three seasons with the Celtics, including 16 points per game in 2006-07.

Jefferson reflected fondly on his time with Rivers, the ninth-year Celtics coach who was hired in Boston the same summer Jefferson was drafted.

"He believes in tough love," Jefferson said. "For a long time I didn't think he liked me, because he stayed on me so much. He told me one day, 'When I stop talking to you, that's when you got to be worried.' "

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz