It's hardly surprising that C.J. Watson, quiet and unassuming by nature, offers such a modest explanation for his not-so-modest shooting percentages. "I'm going to have to make shots if people leave me wide open," he said. "It has to do with confidence and stuff like that, but I've been practicing my shot."
The Warriors guard has indeed found his mark barely a year after being called up from the NBA Development League.
Watson not only ranks fifth in three-point shooting .464 heading into tonight's game against Atlanta, but he's also climbing the Warriors' list of clutch performers.
In Wednesday's triple overtime loss to the Kings, Watson scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, including six in a row that completed a rally that erased a 14-point Warriors deficit.
"We needed someone else to step up and C.J. was right there," Andris Biedrins said. "He proved the last couple of games that he can take those big shots, especially now that Stephen Jackson is out and Jamal Crawford can't score every single time."
"He shows a lot of heart, he's not afraid to take the big shots and he has a nice mid-range game," Crawford added. "I actually tease him and call him Terrell Brandon a two-time All-Star during his 11-year career from 1991 to 2002 because he has a smooth game."
So smooth, in fact, that it's almost easy to overlook Watson's play.
While nearly every Warriors guard has made waves this season - consider Baron Davis' departure, Monta Ellis' injury, Crawford's arrival, Marco Belinelli's resurgence, Anthony Morrow's breakout and even Marcus Williams' freeze-out - it's Watson who arguably has been the steadiest.
Though he's averaging a pedestrian 10 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 26.9 minutes per game, his efficiency is stark. Watson is shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 82 percent from the foul line to match his impressive three-point clip.
And he just might be the best bargain in the NBA. He makes the league minimum for a second-year player at $711,517, a salary that figures to be bumped nicely when he becomes a restricted free agent at season's end.
Fellow role player turned semi-starter Kelenna Azubuike, facing the same situation last summer, was rewarded with a three-year, $9 million offer from the Clippers that the Warriors matched.
Watson has started 13 games for the shorthanded Warriors, and coach Don Nelson's only quibble is minor: He wishes that Watson, who is not the strongest of finishers, would pass more when he drives to the basket. But the coach also realizes that Watson is more of a shooting guard than a point guard, and is trying to improve his court vision.
Said Nelson: "He's probably improved as much as any player in a year and a half that I've had."
Briefly: Jackson practiced Thursday and is expected to return tonight after missing 10 days with a strained right hamstring. ... Once Ellis returns, Nelson believes the guard will look like his old self. "I see the same quickness and explosiveness," the coach said. "That's all still there, so that's a big relief." ... Corey Maggette, who shot an uncharacteristic 4-for-12 from the foul line Wednesday, practiced with his shooting hand taped.
Warriors tonight Warriors 11-29 vs. Hawks 23-15Oracle Arena 7:30 p.m.CSNBA/680Atlanta is finishing a three-game West Coast road trip after beating the Clippers 97-80 Wednesday to snap a four-game losing streak. The Hawks never trailed against Los Angeles. ... All-Star Joe Johnson is averaging 21.9 points, 6.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game, while all five Hawks starters are scoring in double digits. ... Atlanta, which pushed the Celtics to seven games in the first round of last year's playoffs, is fourth in the East.