Utah Jazz: Back on bench, Jamaal Tinsley ready for opportunity
By Bill Oram
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 19 2013 05:28PM
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.