Watson due some rest

Former Tennessee basketball coach Buzz Peterson liked to joke that point guard C.J. Watson had a "third lung" that enabled him to play nearly every minute of every game without getting winded.

There was a catch, though. While Watson's lungs held up OK, his legs tended to grow tired as the game entered the home stretch. That might explain why Tennessee's offense routinely came up empty in the final minutes of close games: A weary playmaker rarely makes plays.

Watson averaged 36 minutes per game as a freshman, 34 as a sophomore and 35 as a junior. Last season he went 40 of a possible 45 minutes in an overtime win at Florida. He played 39 minutes against UT-Chattanooga, Xavier, Belmont and Nebraska, 38 each against Mississippi State, Louisville and Auburn.

Watson's iron-man days appear to be over, however. New head coach Bruce Pearl will not ask him to go 38 minutes at the hectic pace the 2005-06 Vols are going to utilize.

"The way we play, 30 to 32 minutes is a lot," Pearl said during his first preseason news conference Tuesday at Thompson-Boling Arena. "Once you get more than that, you really put yourself in a position where late in the game you can't make plays – either stops or baskets.

"C.J. needs to be fresh enough at the end to win games for us. Even though there isn't a clear-cut challenger for his starting job, he won't be playing more than 30 to 32 minutes most nights."

That raises the obvious question: When Watson isn't at the point, who will be?

Answer A: Jordan Howell

Answer B: Dane Bradshaw

Answer C: JaJuan Smith

Right now, Pearl isn't sure which option is most attractive, but he's going to invest the time to find out.

"I think point guard is Jordan Howell's natural position," the coach said, referring to the position Howell played in high school.

"Dane Bradshaw played backup point guard last year," Pearl added, "and he's probably the most solid of the backup point guards because he's pretty strong with the ball."

"JaJuan Smith is more of a scoring guard; he's better off the ball," Pearl concluded, "but he's talented and athletic, and we're looking at him at point guard, as well."

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