Bulls player recap: C.J. Watson
May, 17, 2012
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com
AP Photo/Matt SlocumC.J. Wilson battled through injuries and failed to play his best in the playoffs.Over the next few weeks, we'll take a closer look at each player on the Bulls roster and see where they fit in for the future.
Position: Point guard | Age: 28 | 2011-12 salary: $3,400,000
Season recap: Watson played well at times, but his year was marred by a constant stream of injuries that started in the first week of the season. He sustained a dislocated left elbow on Jan. 1, a concussion in February, a sprained ankle in March and other various ailments throughout. After the season he had a procedure on both feet to alleviate pain from plantar fasciitis. The veteran guard was consistently praised by coach Tom Thibodeau for the toughness he showed, but his play suffered towards the end of the season. After grinding his way through a productive year, Watson struggled badly in the playoffs in place of an injured Derrick Rose.
Season highlight: Even with an active Rose in place, it was Watson who helped deliver the Bulls one of their most impressive wins of the season on April 12 against the Miami Heat when he scored 16 points and hit several huge shots down the stretch. Thibodeau decided to bench Rose in the fourth quarter and overtime and rode Watson's hot hand to victory.
Season lowlight: The playoffs. After Rose went down in Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers with a torn ACL in his left knee, Watson went just 13-for-54 from the field in the last five games of the series, struggling to find any kind of offensive consistency.
Notes: Watson deserves a large amount of credit for the way he continually played through injuries and tried to stay in the lineup while Rose battled a laundry list of his own injuries. But when the Bulls needed Watson to step up the most he just couldn't find his shot. Watson earned continuous praise from his teammates, but his postseason performance left a lot to be desired, even if he was dealing with something as painful as plantar fasciitis in the end.
Quotes: "I think C.J.'s a warrior," Bulls center Joakim Noah said in March. "He's somebody who's still playing injured, but we need him to play. For him to come back like that just shows the sacrifice he's making for the team. Not playing for five, six games, coming back against Miami; throwing him in the fire and stepping up for us, controlling the game. Point guard is not an easy position to play and Speakington, as we call him, he was huge."
What's next?: Watson will begin to rehab his body from the wear and tear it took during the lockout-shortened season. He will likely begin training back in Las Vegas, his hometown, later this summer. The question for Watson and the Bulls becomes: Will the team pick up his $3.7 million option for next season? With Rose likely sidelined for at least the first 2-3 months of next season, he may be one of the best options the Bulls have for the price. Especially given that it's very unlikely Steve Nash will be coming to Chicago.
FINAL GRADES -- Regular Season: B-. Postseason: D.