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Bulls say they have confidence in C.J. Watson

Updated: June 2, 2012 8:15AM

Maybe it’s better that C.J. Watson has chosen to stay out of the spotlight leading into Game 2 of the Bulls’ first-round playoff series Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.

After all, how many times does he need to be reminded that what seems to be held against him most these days is that he’s not Derrick Rose?

No, he’s C.J. Watson, and the Bulls could do much worse than that.

This is a guy who scored 40 points in a game during the 2009-10 season. This is a guy who can hit clutch shots; just ask the Miami Heat. This is a guy who was born and raised in Las Vegas, for goodness sake.

And, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said, this is a guy who is capable of doing some special things on the court. Rose special? Probably not, but they’ll do. They’ll have to.

‘‘He’s an excellent pick-and-roll player,’’ Thibodeau said of the 6-2 Watson. ‘‘He can push the ball in transition. He’s a terrific shooter, a terrific three-point shooter. He has good quickness, and he knows how to run this team. He understands the strengths and weaknesses of this team. He’s played with the starters. He’s played with the bench guys. He has a real good feel for that.

‘‘An important part of basketball is playing smart. We have to play intelligently, and part of playing intelligently is understanding your strengths and weaknesses and what your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses are. I don’t want him to change who he is. There are some things he does extremely well, and I want him to play to those strengths.’’

And the confidence in Watson isn’t just coachspeak.

‘‘C.J. is so laid-back, you can’t tell what he’s thinking,’’ Bulls sharpshooter Kyle Korver said. ‘‘He’s said, like, 15 words all year, so I don’t really know. But his play all year has shown that he’s a very capable point guard.

‘‘There’s only one Derrick Rose. We don’t need him to be Derrick Rose. We need him to play solid and play aggressive, for sure. He’s got that quiet confidence to him.’’

That’s what playing 27 games without Rose has helped the Bulls build this season. And now that Rose is done for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, that foundation had better hold.

At least the Bulls still have Watson. It could be much worse.

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