David Goldman, AP
ATLANTA — Even while things are going good overall, Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin found himself in a "delicate" situation.
Corbin has a pair of veteran playmakers behind Devin Harris who have given the team a lift and spark off the bench.
Question is: Who to play, Earl Watson or Jamaal Tinsley? For now, Corbin's answer is Tinsley.
"It's a delicate thing right now because (Watson) deserves to play," Corbin said. "But Jamaal has earned more minutes on the floor and the team's responding."
The Jazz went on to lose the game in which Watson re-sprained his left ankle in Phoenix on March 14, but then they won six in a row.
Watson, ever a team player, is happy with the Jazz's success.
But the fan favorite wants to play, and that hasn't happened lately. He's only gotten in one game for a few garbage-time minutes since returning to the team a week ago after getting laser treatment on his ankle.
Corbin wanted to relay a message to Watson on Sunday: "It's not a demotion."
But Tinsley ended up playing 13 minutes in the Jazz's quadruple-overtime loss to Atlanta, and Watson did not get off the bench again (except to cheer on his teammates and offer advice during timeouts).
Health-wise, Watson feels "100 percent," so the lack of P.T. is tough to swallow for the guy whose energy, enthusiasm and leadership ignited the Jazz's second unit for much of the season.
"It's just the way it is. It's just unfortunate it happened after the trade deadline," Watson said. "The timing of the season is bad, but there's always options. You just stay ready and stay professional, stay supportive. No matter where you're at, you want to win, so you cheer for your teammates."
The point guard playing time balancing act has been a tough one for Corbin all season. He's remained with Harris as the starter through the former All-Star's struggles, but the second-year coach was bothered by not being able to find time for Tinsley early in the season. Now that things are going well for Tinsley, Corbin's sympathetic toward Watson.
"He deserve to play," Corbin said. "They both do."
Now, Watson will work and wait for his next opportunity, whether it's tonight, Wednesday in Boston or … well, who knows what the future holds. He is under contract with the Jazz for another season.
"I don't know if you can win your spot back," Watson said. "It's not like there's practice time. … I think it's a coach's decision. More power to him. He feels it's what's best."
Watson said there isn't any friction between him and Tinsley.
"I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have a problem playing on any other team. It's not like I'm out of the NBA," he said. "Just stay ready and let my agent figure all the business side out."
Added Watson: "Physically, I feel great. We'll just move on from there. I don't think it's that big of a deal. It happens every day in sports. You just find a way to deal with it and you move on."
STILL NO BELL: Raja Bell and his agent have requested a second opinion on his left knee, and Corbin said the veteran guard won't see action until that happens. Bell underwent an MRI on the knee, and team orthopedist Dr. Lyle Mason said the 12-year veteran's knee had mild structural changes "consistent with someone of his NBA experience level."
Bell expects his Charlotte-based doctor to review results today.
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