Earl Watson agrees to a deal with the Utah Jazz

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earl_watson_indiana_pacers.jpgEarl Watson has game made for the background. He’s not a bad player. Sub-average, really, but not bad. He’s spent most of his career as a reserve, and has typically managed to hold down the fort while his team’s regular point man sips on Gatorade.

When Watson is asked to do more than tread water (See: 2010 Pacers, 2008 Sonics) however, he flounders. His mistakes — the kind you live with from a backup but can’t stand from a starter — become glaring, his couple of points and assists here and there in limited stretches don’t translate to bigger minutes, and Watson’s limitations take the forefront.

Without that kind of responsibility and extended burn, Watson is a nice player to have around. According to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, Watson will be a nice player to have around in Utah; Watson and the Jazz have agreed on terms to a guaranteed deal, and he’ll have a chance to compete with Ronnie Price for Deron Williams’ scraps.

It’s tough to peg the ’10-’11 Jazz. So much of their season depends on how quickly Al Jefferson can pick up the flex, and whether Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap can carry more of the offensive load. On top of those concerns, Utah’s depth on the wings has evaporated, as Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, and Wesley Matthews have all fled for other squads.

Signings like this one (in addition to the Raja Bell pick-up) help to partially offset that loss by filling backup minutes at other positions, but the roster turnover should knock the Jazz down a peg nonetheless. Their current shooting guard and small forward options are a definite drop-off from their ’09-’10 counterparts, and that deficit combined with the integration of new personnel, and a shortened campaign out of Mehmet Okur could conceivably push Utah out of the tight playoff race in the West.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.