Fewer minutes, more fun

If playing time is your No. 1 priority, the last job you might want in pro basketball is to be the backup point guard for the Chicago Bulls.

Clearly, playing time is not the No. 1 priority for former Tennessee standout C.J. Watson. Otherwise, he never would've left the Golden State Warriors following the 2009-10 season to become the understudy to the NBA's premier point guard, Chicago's Derrick Rose. That's not a recommended role for someone looking to play a lot of minutes.

"Not really," Watson conceded during a recent stop in Knoxville, "but it has its perks here and there. You get used to it."

When asked what the perks might be, Watson smiled softly and replied: "Playing behind him, you go in the game and play your game. You don't really have any stress. You just go in there and play."

Although he enjoyed his three years with Golden State, Watson finds life is even better playing for the Bulls. That's because he left a franchise that went 26-56 in 2009-10 for a franchise that went 62-20 in 2010-11.

"Being in Chicago is good. It's fun," Watson said. "It's better to be winning than losing. That was one of the main reasons for moving; I wanted to be with a playoff team and a winning team. I wanted to experience the playoffs, so I had to change scenes to do that."

Watson finished up at Tennessee in 2005-06, then bounced around for nearly two years before catching on with the Warriors in 2007-08. The key to making the transition from undrafted college player to pro player, he says, was pretty basic.

"It was just putting in more work and more time, staying focused on the prize and believing in myself," he said.

Now that he has played four seasons in the NBA, Watson readily admits that the pro game required an attitude adjustment.

"Just keeping it professional, keeping it businesslike," he said. "It's more of a business than it is basketball at the end of the day, so you have to be smart and do the right thing."

Still, getting paid to do something you love is a pretty good gig. Watson concedes as much.

"There's a lot more things you put into it," he said. "There's money on the line, and people are getting paid to do something they like to do. You don't have classes to attend, so you have a lot more free time than you do in college. But they expect you to do well, so you have to put in the work."

Although playing for your books and tuition at the college level can be stressful, playing for your livelihood at the pro level is much more so.

"Yes," Watson conceded. "You have to mind your Ps and Qs because there's always someone on your heels trying to get your spot."

NBA teams constantly evaluate free agents and college prospects in an effort to upgrade their rosters. Knowing the Bulls routinely check out other point guards is no problem for Watson, however.

"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "I'm comfortable in myself and my game."

Watson played in Knoxville's Rocky Top League the past two summers but decided to skip it this June.

"I'm taking a month off," he said, "then I'll start working out in July once or twice a day and keep it up until training camp."

Although he was signed by Buzz Peterson, Watson played his senior season at UT for Bruce Pearl. Naturally, he was disappointed by the series of events that led to Pearl's firing in March.

"It's unfortunate but I'm sure he's going to do well, whether it's in basketball or TV," Watson said. "I wish all of the assistant coaches the best. Hopefully, they'll get jobs somewhere else."

Watson said he learned some valuable lessons from Pearl and his staff, with one being especially helpful.

"Just to play my game," he said. "They let me play my game from the time they got here until the time I left, so I thank them for that."

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