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Utah Jazz: Tinsley, Watson take point guard show on the road

Published January 3, 2013 11:26 pm

NBA • Without Mo Williams, Jazz turn to Tinsley, Watson.
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Phoenix • After opening to enthusiastic reviews, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson are taking their show on the road.

With starting point guard Mo Williams sidelined after thumb surgery, the Jazz are counting on Tinsley and Watson to quarterback them for at least six weeks.

The critical stretch begins with five of their next six games on the road, starting Friday night at Phoenix.

The Jazz received the bad news about Williams just before their 106-84 win over Minnesota on Wednesday night.

Tinsley and Watson played well against the Timberwolves. They combined for 14 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds and, as a team, the Jazz shot 49.4 percent.

"We are who we are right now," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "But I feel good about those guys. Jamaal and Earl are doing a good job for us."

Tinsley, who turns 35 on Feb. 28, will make his 10th start of the season against the Suns. But it's only his 12th start since 2007-08, when he played at Indiana.

Asked what Williams' absence means to him, Tinsley shrugged and said, "Just more minutes. I've been a starter over my NBA career. I'm a little older now but I'm a little smarter, too. I know how to take care of my body now. I'm in shape for it.

"The biggest thing for Earl and me — as two veteran point guards with our key point guard being down — we need to take care of the ball. Just make sure we get a good shot each time down. And defend."

Watson is 33 and coming off major knee surgery.

He has played in 18 games this season, but has not averaged more than 21 minutes since 2009-10 in Indiana.

Like Tinsley, however, he sounds ready for an increased role in the aftermath of Williams' injury.

"Me and Jamaal, we've been in the NBA for a lot of years now," Watson said. "So I don't think we'll put too much emphasis on it. We just go out and play. We're not going to change who we are."

Watson averages 16 minutes a game, although he played 24 against Minnesota.

"I'm still trying to find my rhythm offensively," he said, "so that's going to get better. Everything is going to pick up. My health and strength and stamina will come back. It's just a work in progress."

The good news?

Watson reports no trouble with his surgically repaired knee.

"My leg feels great," he said. "It's just I haven't played much since Easter. So to finally come back and get consistent minutes, it's something new. But it will come quickly. I'm starting to see layers of it unfold."

Behind Tinsley and Watson, swing-types Randy Foye, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward are the possibilities for playing time at point guard.

"By committee," Corbin said. "We'll move guys around."

Said Hayward: "I could definitely handle the ball — if the team needs me to do it — and get us into our sets. ... I kind of know all the positions, so I don't think that part would be too difficult."

Neither Foye, Burks nor Hayward are natural point guards, of course, but the Jazz's roster situation makes the addition of one unlikely.

Utah has 15 players under contract, including rookie shooting guard Kevin Murphy and exiled veteran Raja Bell.

Murphy is playing with Reno in the NBA Development League and, for the time being, will continue to do so.

It's also doubtful Jazz management will settle Bell's buyout issues simply to make room for a No. 3 point guard. —

Jazz vs. Suns

P At U.S. Airways Center (Phoenix)

Tipoff • 7 p.m.

TV • ROOT

Radio • 1280 AM, 960 AM, 97.5-FM

Records • Jazz 16-17; Suns 12-21

Last meeting • Suns, 99-84 (Dec. 14)

Season series • Tied, 1-1

About the Jazz • They have lost seven of their last 10 but come off a 106-84 victory over Minnesota. ... C Al Jefferson averages 19.9 points on 51.2 percent shooting at home but only 14.8 points on 45.2 percent shooting on the road. ... C Enes Kanter (sprained ankle) is doubtful.

About the Suns • They are 5-2 in their last seven home games, losing only to the Knicks (99-97) and Clippers (103-77). ... They are 5-9 in games decided by six points or less. ... Their top scorers are PG Goran Dragic (14.3) and F Luis Scola (13.0).