SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Earl Watson wanted to play.
As a 33-year-old who's been in the NBA for 12 seasons, the veteran point guard knows his playing days are numbered.
That's why he's willing to put on his Utah Jazz uniform and take to the court no matter what percentage number is placed on the health of his beat-up right leg.
Seventy-five percent? 85 percent? 99.99 percent?
It doesn't matter to him.
Watson's mind and heart are at 100 percent, so he was ready and raring to get back into action Saturday night despite dealing with bruised bone and a stress fracture in his lower right leg.
Though that moment came for Watson in the first half Saturday, if you gave him truth serum, the tough player would even fully admit his leg isn't all the way healed.
The competitor inside of him wants to be out there.
"I try to come back as soon as possible anyway because I think it's a small window of opportunity you have to play in the NBA and to play basketball," Watson said earlier this week. "I want to take advantage of it and compete and have fun."
Coming into Saturday's game, Watson had been sidelined for three games after initially injuring his right leg against New Orleans on Jan. 30 — from bumping knees with a Hornets player, unrelated to his right knee surgery last spring.
Watson was getting anxious to play again.
"That's what I live to do," he said. "So for me, I want to get back because I love the game, and for two I want to help my team, just to close out the break strong. We have a great opportunity right here and definitely we want to take advantage of it."
Watson actually said that earlier this week. He dressed for games but didn't play Wednesday and Friday.
Watson said he felt somewhat of a "grinding" on the bone in his lower right leg as the tibia shifted, and called that "tough." In the past week, he's improved from doubtful to game-time decision to "good."
"It's progress for me. I think with a stress fracture it's anywhere from like one to four weeks," Watson said. "The thing with me is I always think I'm always healed and I'm not. I guess that's the positive and the negative of who I am."
Watson added: "I can rest over All-Star break. I can push through right now and rest later."
NOT YET THERE: Gordon Hayward worked with Jazz strength coach Mark McKown with a medicine ball before Saturday's game, but he ended up missing his eighth straight contest with a sprained right shoulder.
The Jazz aren't saying whether he'll be healthy enough to attempt playing in the final two games before next week's All-Star break or (more likely) if he'll use that time to heal more.
"He's getting better every day. He's working hard to try to get back on the floor," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We want to make sure that he's ready to go when he get back and not take a chance of getting him hurt further."
WHAT ABOUT MO, YO: Injured Jazz point guard Mo Williams, who's been out since Dec. 23 with a surgery-requiring thumb injury, took exception to something ESPN's Bill Simmons said before Friday's Chicago-Utah game.
Tweeted Williams: "What the (heck) Bill Simmons talking about the jazz need a point guard. What the (heck) position have I been playing all yr? #smh #espn #cmon."
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