Portland, Ore. •Â He's played just 31 minutes for the Portland Trail Blazers this season, but that doesn't mean former Utah Jazz point guard Earl Watson isn't leaving his mark on his new team.
"Earl has been a great mentor for everybody big guys, guards," Portland head coach Terry Stotts said before Friday's game between the Blazers and Jazz. "I call him Coach Watson. He knows the game."
At 34 years old and playing in his 13th NBA season, Watson says he could imagine himself carrying a clipboard someday.
"Coaching, I could absolutely see it," he said. "It's just part of who I am. If you would have asked me at 25, I would have said no way."
In an annual survey of NBA general managers, Watson was one of a dozen players who received votes as the active player who will make the best head coach someday.
Jazz coach Ty Corbin praised his basketball IQ.
"He was great here, man," he said. "He understands the game. He understands where he is in his career. Everything he tries to do with his team is to win."
Watson's career has crossed paths with Nate McMillan, Hubie Brown, Jerry West, Larry Bird and Jerry Sloan, and Watson says he's taken something from each of them.
"I think I have so much knowledge to give back," Watson said.
Lillard confident, clamping down
The Blazers' starting point guard, meanwhile, is just getting going. In his second season, former Weber State point guard Damian Lillard is averaging better than 20 points and five assists a night for Portland.
"If it's possible, he's a little more confident because he has a year under his belt," Stotts said. "He made it look easy, but it was a learning curve for him. Now I think he understands what he's capable of."
While Lillard showed he was an elite scorer even during his time in Ogden, the reigning Rookie of the Year has started to become a better defender, Stotts said. Lillard's defensive rating has improved from 107.2 last year to 103.4 now.
After missing Wednesday's game against the Pacers with the stomach flu, Jazz forward Jeremy Evans was back on the court Friday.
"You look at Jeremy and he's been shooting the ball really well," Corbin said. "But the little intangible things he does running the floor, making the weak-side defensive plays, getting his hands on loose balls [were] a lot of those things we missed" against Indiana.