Earl Watson turned down greener pastures last summer, but what will he do this summer?
Mike Wells compares Watson's situation to Jarrett Jack's situation last year at this time. Both point guards battled through a tough season to emerge as a strong leader impacting a positive end to the season. Like Jack, there's a lot to love about Watson. Aside from the way he's gone about his business all season and finally taken control of running the team with T.J. Ford sidelined, we also learn he's a man of his word.
As Wells reports, Watson had yet to officially sign with the Pacers when the Paul Pierce and the Celtics tried to lure Watson with the literally greener pastures of a role on a championship contending team. Watson stuck to his verbal agreement with the Pacers and has made the best of it ever since.
Watson adds his name to a list to what has become a long line of point guards brought in during the Jamaal Tinsley Era (hey, he's still on the cap so the JT era continues) to fill a desperate temporary need. At first the need was there with hopes that eventually Tinsley would get his health or stuff together. Now it's simply filling the void until the team can find a bona fide, franchise-settling point guard for the future.
Over the past five years, the Pacers have run an incredible number of point guards through the playing rotation. Check out the esteemed list after the jump, along with a couple more links of interest.
Of course, Jamaal Tinsley was in and out of the lineup for a few of those years but along with the Tin Man others seeing minutes at the point include: Anthony Johnson, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Eddie Gill, Darrell Armstrong, Orien Greene, Keith McLeod, Travis Diener, Flip Murray, Andre Owens, T.J. Ford, Jarrett Jack, Earl Watson and A.J. Price. When you include the point guard relief duty Marquis Daniels offered at various points in his tenure with the Pacers, that's 15 different players running the point in their own unique way with varying degrees of positive and negative aspects to their game.
Several fit the mold of journeyman back-up or third-string option (Jasikevicius, Gill, Greene, McLeod, Owens, Murray, Diener). Another group would rank as a great back-up option with strong leadership ability (Johnson, Armstrong, Jack, Watson). The kind of players every coach loves to have on his team, that can add value without the ball in his hands on and off the court.
Hanging onto those strong backup players is hard to do since their intangibles often fetch a salary exceeding their worth when salary cap dollars are tight. Plus, any strong-willed backup will be looking for more minutes or a chance at a ring if the money is similar. The Pacers lost Jarrett Jack last season when Toronto offered him a contract too rich for the Pacers to match.
After swapping starting roles for much of the season with T.J. Ford, an injury has put the starting role and bulk of the point guard minutes in Watson's hands for the past 12 games. The Pacers are 8-4 in those games with Watson averaging 8 points, 7 assists and 2 steals. While Watson hasn't been spectacular, it's easy to argue his steady play has allowed varying players around him to provide the spectacular alongs with more wins than losses.
This summer, Earl Watson will likely leave in pursuit of a role on a winning team next season regardless of how much the Pacers want to bring him back. The only scenario for staying that Watson may consider is in a starting role which would be contingent on the Pacers trading T.J. Ford and then not drafting a point guard in the NBA draft.
But even with that last scenario, the Pacers wouldn't be smart to tie up too much money in a contract extension for Watson, so assuming the money is comparable with other offers, Watson will be looking for more wins next season and I can't say that I blame him.
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