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Utah Jazz: Back on bench, Jamaal Tinsley ready for opportunity

Published March 20, 2013 10:59 pm

NBA • Backup has experienced far worse than being benched.
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Jamaal Tinsley is 35 years old, and if the biggest challenge facing him right now is a front-row seat to watch basketball, he'll take it.

"I've been through worse things than that," the Utah Jazz point guard said Tuesday.

Tinsley's 10th NBA season has seen him start 32 games and then unable to get off the bench in 22 others. In Tinsley's mind, though, that is small potatoes compared with other events in his life.

"My issue was just the off-the-court stuff," he said. "Anytime you can overcome anything in life it should make you a better person, especially if [there's] something that you love to do. And that's basketball."

He was there for the Malice at the Palace, the infamous brawl between the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and fans in 2004; he's reportedly been shot at, was present for another shooting involving then-teammate Stephen Jackson and was later arrested for a brawl at a nightclub before the Pacers finally jettisoned Tinsley into the basketball ether in 2008.

The Jazz have 15 games remaining in this season, not counting the potential for a playoff run. It's unclear how long Tinsley's career will extend beyond this season. What is evident, though, is that two years with one of the most straight-edged franchises in the NBA, one with a serious aversion to controversy, resurrected the career of one of the NBA's bad boys.

"Coming to an organization like this," Tinsley said, "usually they wouldn't sign guys like me, so they say. But who is that guy? Get to know that guy first, then make the judgment."

Tinsley, who is being paid roughly $1.3 million this season by the Jazz, has been deceptively critical to the Jazz's success. In 52 games he averages 3.9 points and 4.3 assists, but he bridged a critical stretch in which Mo Williams was out following right thumb surgery. The Jazz are 20-12 this season in games Tinsley starts.

The Jazz plucked Tinsley out of the D-League for the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, signing him to a non-guaranteed contract. Since then, he has been the model of consistency. Once known for having a healthy entourage, the only person ever seen trailing Tinsley these days is his 9-year-old son, Jamaal Jr.

"It just shows where the guy has really grown," coach Tyrone Corbin said "and understands at this stage of his life he's not the 20-some-year-old guy anymore. He had to change, and it's great to see."

Tinsley has been among a group of players to fall victim to the Jazz's depth, not to mention the rapid development of second-year player Alec Burks as a point guard.

"When my opportunity comes," Tinsley said, "I just take advantage."

Despite the return of Williams and Corbin's apparent preference for a backup combination of fellow veteran Earl Watson and Burks, the coach said Tinsley's Jazz career has not come to a premature end.

"We still need him to continue to be ready to play," Corbin said, "and he will play some for us. He's been great."

Tinsley has gained notoriety for his workout routines, staying in peak shape even when the demand for him on the court hasn't been there.

"I think he has a really good understanding of where he is now in his career," Corbin said.

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz —

Jazz at Rockets

P At the Toyota Center

Tipoff • 6 p.m. MT

TV • ROOT

Radio • 1280 AM, 1600 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 34-33; Rockets 36-31

Season series • Rockets lead 2-1

Last meeting • Rockets 125, Utah 80 (Jan. 28)

About the Jazz • They are only 3-9 in their last 12 games. ... They have lost six straight on the road, going back to Feb. 13. ... Their 45-point home loss to Houston seven weeks ago was the worst in franchise history. ... In his last five games, C Al Jefferson averages 11 points on 25-of-69 shooting.

About the Rockets • They come off a 108-78 home loss to Golden State. ... They average 106.5 points and 29 3-point attempts per game. ... As a team, they shoot 37.2 percent from the 3-point line. ... G James Harden averages 26.3 points. ... G Jeremy Lin averages 13 points and 6.1 assists. —

Jamaal Tinsley file

Position • Point guard

Age • 35

Career • Drafted 27th overall 2001 by Vancouver and following a draft-day trade, spent the first seven years of his career with the Indiana Pacers. ... Did not play professional basketball in 2010-11. ... Signed by Jazz to non-guaranteed contract in 2011 prior to the start of the 66-game season. ... Has career averages of 8.8 points and 6.2 assists. ... Started 32 games this season in games Mo Williams was out.