Utah Jazz notebook: Jazz happy to have veterans back, even if it is just visiting, not playing for Earl Watson

Published: Tuesday, April 24 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Earl Watson was at EnergySolutions Arena on Tuesday with his usual big smile and a pair of crutches.

"It was great just to see him, to get back," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.

The Jazz made it official, however, that Watson won't be back playing for however long their season lasts.

Watson had arthroscopic surgery in New York City on April 17 to repair a torn medial meniscus in his right knee, which was injured against San Antonio on April 8.

Corbin said Watson will sport a knee brace for a couple of months, but the 32-year-old guard is expected to make a full recovery in time for the 2012-13 season.

"Any time that somebody goes down with an injury, whether it's your team or even another team, you feel for the guy," Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward said. "Because we've all been in that situation where you can't play and can't help your team. You've just got to sit there and watch. No one wants to do that."

Watson, who has one year left in his Jazz contract, seemed to be in a good mood and even joked that he was going to challenge a reporter to a one-on-one game with his crutches.

"You know that he's doing well by seeing him and his spirits are good and he's on the mend," Corbin said. "He's a huge part of this team and he's a great guy to have around the team, and it's good to see him back supporting us."

Hayward agreed with his coach.

"He's a leader so having his presence in this locker room is good for us as a team," Hayward said. "We're glad to see him back."

VETERAN REINFORCEMENTS: Two of Utah's other veteran players, shooting guard Raja Bell and swingman Josh Howard, have both been working hard trying to get themselves ready to play again after missing more than a month of the season following knee surgeries of their own.

Both 30-something players had surgery on their left knees and, after being sidelined since mid-March, both of them practiced with the team earlier this week.

"They've been out for quite awhile now but they had a good practice yesterday and they've been working their butts off to get back in shape and back up to game speed," Corbin said. " ... We'll see how it goes to see if we can give them opportunities on the court."

Jefferson said he's eager to welcome Howard and Bell back to the lineup and isn't worried about whether they might mess with the team's winning chemistry of late.

"Those guys are ready to get out there and help us to get to the next level," Jefferson said. "... I don't think that will hurt us at all. Those guys are rushing to come back to help us, and I think they're coming back to fit right in with us and continue to do what we've been doing."

Howard was champing at the bit to get back on the court, and he got in Tuesday's game late in the first quarter and responded by hitting his first two shots. However, he missed his next four attempts from the field.

"I want to play, you know, as much as I can," Howard said. "But I don't think that's gonna happen that much, you know, especially with the chemistry. I'll be available if (Corbin) needs me; if not, I'll be down there (on the end of the bench) cheering."

BIG AL'S PERSPECTIVE: Al Jefferson, Utah's starting center, leading scorer and leading rebounder, said the Jazz did not get discouraged when they went through a mid-season slump that saw them lose 11 of 14 games in a frustrating four-week span from Feb. 1 through Feb. 28.

"Coach (Corbin) is not the type of guy that's gonna let us give up," Jefferson said. "... I always felt like we had a pretty good team, we've just got to go out there and play. And for the last couple of weeks, that's what we've been doing — we've been putting ourselves in a position to win games.

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