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Forget D-Will — C-Wats is the player to watch

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with an equally middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.

The Nets are off to an underwhelming start, but there’s a bright spot in the back court where you’d least expect it.

Nope, it’s not Deron Williams, whose salary makes his nightly double-doubles seem dutiful, and who didn’t score in the fourth quarter of the team’s embarrassing loss to the injury-riddled Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s not Joe Johnson, who has shown flashes of his superior skill set but has not yet turned in a complete performance, or MarShon Brooks, who isn’t quite on pace to meet his stated goal of Sixth Man of the Year.

Nor is it small forward Gerald Wallace, who became the first Net to succumb to injury during an otherwise productive opening night. And definitely not aging player-coach Jerry Stackhouse, who appears to be competing for minutes with the team’s new, but somehow already reviled, mascot BrooklyKnight.

The highlight of this young season has been backup point guard C.J. “Quietstorm” Watson, acquired during the offseason from the Chicago Bulls, where he provided a steady hand in the absence of banged-up star Derrick Rose. In the Nets’ opener against the Toronto Raptors — a win that was far too narrow against a team that keeps Aaron Gray employed as a basketball player — Watson dropped 15 timely points on 6 of 9 shooting. He followed up that performance with 10 points on 50 percent shooting, adding four assists and a steal in 22 minutes against Minnesota.

As this column has previously noted, Watson, who went undrafted in 2006, should already have a special place in the hearts of Nets’ faithful after declaring D-Will better than D-Rose. But his status as a fan favorite shouldn’t stop there.

When Watson was a free agent in the offseason, Williams, a former teammate on the USA Basketball Junior World Championship Team, called him with a personal appeal to join the new-look Nets. Watson has said that call, along with one from coach Avery Johnson, was key to his decision to sign a two-year, league minimum contract with Brooklyn instead of exploring more lucrative offers.

During the awkward loss to the T-Wolves, coach Johnson relied on his second unit for too long, jeopardizing his team’s ability to win in an effort to build confidence among bench players. But Watson could quickly become more than a member of the Nets’ second tier, despite a 6-foot-2 frame that would traditionally prevent him from playing opposite another point guard like Williams.

A calming presence in a locker room still adjusting to new faces, he tweeted one word after the loss to his 350,000 followers that sits well with all Brooklyn hoops fans: “Unacceptab­le!!!!!”

Updated 5:37 pm, July 9, 2018
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