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.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.