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Watson shows he's a suitable starter

2/11/2012

CHARLOTTE -- C.J. Watson knew Thursday that Derrick Rose wasn't going to play Friday night, so he mentally prepared for additional minutes. Given the fact that the Bulls are now 5-1 without Rose on the year and Watson has played an integral role in all but one of those games, the Bulls weren't exactly concerned that Rose had to sit out.

"We're very lucky to have C.J.," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "C.J. would be starting on a lot of teams. We're not worried when he fills in for Derrick. We're such a deep team, we've got guys, whenever someone goes down, guys are just stepping up and doing a great job."

Watson did that again Friday, scoring seven points and dishing out five assists in 25 minutes. He brings a stabilizing force to the lineup whenever Rose has to miss a game. He's averaging 10 points, four assists and two rebounds a game.

"Our depth is definitely our greatest strength," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "But obviously we know that we need everybody healthy when that thing happens at the end. This is definitely not a sprint, it's a marathon. And we need everybody right."

Watson is struggling shooting the ball well from beyond the arc lately. He's 1-for-6 in the past two games, which is compounded by the fact that the Bulls' organization and his agency are pushing for him to be selected in the 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend later this month.

"My agent pushed it first," Watson said with a smile. "So ever since then I haven't hit a three, so I'm just going to stop. No more tweeting it for me, no more mentioning it, so I'm just going to shoot the ball."

Bulls not impressed by record: The Bulls became the first team in NBA history to win four straight road games by more than 20 points, but it didn't seem to affect the team much.

"No [it doesn't matter], other than it says that you're playing well," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "But it doesn't mean a lot other than we have to get ready for the next game."

Carlos Boozer felt the same way.

"It's a great accomplishment, but we're playing for something much bigger than that," he said.

Boozer and his teammates have their eyes on bigger prizes.

"Our goal, and coach Thibs has probably told you guys this a million times is to play a 48 minute game, and a perfect game, which is impossible," Boozer said. "But that's what we strive to do and that's what keeps us going."

Bulls forward Luol Deng was one of the only players who seemed even remotely impressed by the accomplishment.

"That's good to hear," he said. "That's a great accomplishment. I think we're just the type of guys, we're so focused on us. Even though we're winning by 20, we still see some things out there that we could still work on, but that's just the type of group we are."

Like what?

"Defensively. There's stuff defensively we're making mistakes [on]," he said. "There's times offensively we could do a better job of moving the ball, even though it's moving great. Is it a lot of stuff, no? But it's always going to be something. You're not going to be perfect out there. I'm never going to sit there and tell you guys we played perfect. It's not going to happen."

Deng thinks the Bulls have actually caught a break by completing the first portion of their schedule in the way they have. After Sunday's game against the Celtics, the Bulls will have played 20 of their first 30 games on the road.

"We started off the season having a lot of back to backs. I think lately we've been playing every other day. For me, when I play every other day, I really feel rested. I know a lot of guys are the same. Back to back, then a day, and a back to back, those are always tough."

The last word: "It's great. He embodies everything you look for in a winning player. Smart, tough, plays to win, unselfish. I think his teammates have great respect for him because of all the things that he does ..." -- Thibodeau on Deng making the All Star team.