In his relatively short NBA career, CJ Watson has been known as a guy who backs up dynamic point guards. During his nearly 2 1/2 seasons with the Golden State Warriors, he played behind Baron Davis. This year, he joined the Chicago Bulls where he backed up league MVP Derrick Rose.
But Watson has had a pretty interesting trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in his own right. He talked to Black Sports Online about his journey to the NBA, what would mean more to him than winning a title and how he can’t really predict the future.
Where did “The Quiet Storm” nickname come from?
It came from my sister when I was sixteen. Me and my brother went to get a tattoo and she just came up with the name and it stuck with me ever since.
You have the kind of Twitter following that a lot of high-profile athletes would love to have (more than 340,000 followers). Any explanation for how that happened?
I’m not sure. I don’t know. Just one day I woke up one and it was like that. I’m not a big superstar or anything so I’m not sure why I have so many. It just happened and I’ve just been trying to put the word out about my foundation and the other stuff that I do. Everyone’s been receptive to it and it’s been working so far.
What was the motivation to start the Quiet Storm Foundation?
I just wanted to help other kids. When I was growing up I always said if I ever got a chance to help others, if I could get in that position, I always wanted to do so. Now I’m here in the NBA and there’s no better stage to do that than the NBA and helping others and people hearing your voice.
You tweeted about Derrick Rose winning the MVP a couple of days before the official announcement. Can we change your nickname to “The Oracle” after that?
I just was trying to congratulate my teammate and just say how great of a job he has done this season. It wasn’t anything that me or some other people knew before anybody. I was just congratulating my teammate and saying how happy I was for him.
At the beginning of the year when it came to the Eastern Conference, everyone was focused on the Heat, Celtics and Magic. Do you feel like we underestimated the Bulls?
I think so. A lot of people were talking about everyone else like The Big Three in Boston. But we just came under the radar and just kept working hard the whole year. Kept going game by game and we kept getting better as the season went along. And that’s why we’re in the position we’re in now.
You came to the Bulls after playing with the Golden State Warriors. What was it like going from an offensive-minded coach like Don Nelson to a defensive-minded coach like Tom Thibodeau?
It wasn’t that big of a change. The only change was the tempo and some of the half-court sets. Other than that, I’ve been playing for defensive coaches all my life. I want to be the best defensive player. I take pride in defense. Offense is something that came second nature. I actually got better offensively as my career has gone along. But defense has always been there for me.
You have some guys like Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson who love to play defense. Does that make it easier to deal with Coach Thibs if you already have a defensive mindset?
Yeah, it does. I think it took a lot of pressure off of everyone else when Thibs got the job. And knowing that he was such a defensive coach, we just went out there and played. Because he lets you do whatever you want on offense. As long as you play hard on defense, you can do whatever you want on offense.
How much pride does “The Bench Mob” take in holding or extending a lead while you’re on the floor?
That’s our main goal every time. To go out there if the team’s down or if we’re up, to go out there and build the lead and gain the lead. We don’t want to be that bench that when the starters go out, we lose the lead or teams start to come back and score on us. We take pride in defense. And offensively, we’re playing good together in the second unit and we come with a lot of energy and a lot of tempo.
You guys swept the Heat during the regular season. Does that give you any extra confidence heading into the Eastern Conference Finals?
No. We’re just ready to go out there and play. We know they’re going to play pretty well in the postseason. And we know the regular season doesn’t really matter. It’s 0-0 and any teams can win. It’s whoever is going out there and playing with a lot of confidence and playing together as a team.
Your teammate Carlos Boozer said the Heat only have two great players. Are you worried about Miami using that as bulletin board material?
No, we’re not worried about anything. We just gotta go out there and play. We’ll let our play do the talking for us. We know what we’ve gotta do on the court and off the court. At the same time, as long as we go out there and execute on the court, everything will take care of itself.
Coming out of college at Tennessee, you went overseas to play. Then you were in the D-League before getting a shot in the NBA. Did you think when you were a freshman that you’d have such a long path to where you are now?
Not really. I really didn’t think about the NBA until my junior or senior year in college. It really was an after-effect that I always thought I could go overseas and play basketball. I was mainly focused on school and just playing basketball and being good. It didn’t come until my junior or senior year, like I said, that I really started focusing on the NBA and really trying to prepare my game for the NBA.
You’re still working on your degree and hoping to graduate real soon. How much longer until you can walk?
I have two more classes, but I can walk now and finish those two classes and be done. But I want to actually finish my two classes first and then walk. [That will happen] if not this offseason, then next summer for sure.
There’s been some change at Tennessee. Do you think the program’s ready to bounce back?
Yeah, I think so. I think it’ll take a couple years to probably turn around. I haven’t met the new coach (Cuonzo Martin) yet, but I heard great things about him and I’m sure he’ll get the program back on the right track.
What means more to you? Having a degree or a shot at championship ring?
Having a degree is probably the main thing because they can’t take that away from. But going for a championship is a great thing too. It lets you learn to live in the moment and not take things for granted. You never know, you might not get this chance again.
You wear number 32 because of Magic Johnson. Have you ever had a chance to meet him?
I met him a couple of times in L.A. when we played the Lakers. He’s a good guy. Very entrepreneurial, so hopefully I can try to be like him.
Did he have any advice for you?
Try not to beat the Lakers.
You’re a sneakerhead. How many pairs of sneakers do you own?
Too many. I don’t even wear any of them anymore. I’m down to, just like, one. I wear the same shoe every day now.
Have you added anything new to the collection?
I have a bunch of new Air Maxes, some new retro Jordans. Lately I’ve been doing some casual shoes, like Guccis, Louis Vuittons, stuff like that. But I still like the sneakers.