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Pacers signee looking for fresh start in Indy

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C.J. Watson has no misconception about his role with the Indiana Pacers.

Barring a calamitous event — i.e., an injury to George Hill — Watson will make all of his contributions from the bench.

He’s not only fine with that, he embraces the opportunity.

“I’m just very happy to be here. It’s a great team here. It’s a young team. It’s got better each and every year,” said Watson, who was signed a two-year free-agent contract July 10 to fortify a second unit that largely disappointed last season.

The Watson file

Name: C.J. Watson (full name is Charles Akeem Watson Jr.)

Team: Indiana Pacers

Position: Point guard

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 175 pounds

Age: 29

College: Tennessee (undrafted)

Acquired: Signed free-agent contract July 10

Experience: Entering seventh NBA season

Former teams: Golden State Warriors (2007-10); Chicago Bulls (2010-12); Brooklyn Nets (2012-13)

Career totals: Has appeared in 385 regular-season games, with 67 starts; has career averages of 7.6 points, 2.5 assists and 1.9 rebounds; best season was 2009-10, when he averaged 10.3 points, 2.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds for Golden State

Watson, who is entering his seventh NBA season, is expected to be Hill’s primary backup at point guard. D.J. Augustin, who was brought in as a free agent last year to perform the job, failed more often than not.

An unrestricted free agent not expected back, Augustin appeared in 76 regular-season games. But he averaged only 16 minutes per outing and delivered precious little. He averaged 4.9 points and 2.2 assists per game and, worse still, shot only 35 percent from the field.

Not surprisingly, the Pacers are banking on more from Watson. And if history is an indication, they’ll get it.

Signed by Golden State as an undrafted free agent in 2007, Watson has been a reliable contributor through most of his career. He played three seasons with the Warriors, two with the Chicago Bulls, and was most recently All-Star Deron Williams’ backup for one year with the Brooklyn Nets.

Expected to provide an instant offensive boost to a bench that ranked near the bottom of the NBA in that category last season, Watson brings career averages of 7.6 points and 2.5 assists and is a career 42 percent shooter from the field.

He is also known as a fierce defender who played a prominent reserve role last for the Nets, a playoff team who he had the option of re-signing with. But the 29-year-old decided to cast his lot with the Pacers, who pushed eventual champion Miami to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“It’s kind of tough leaving a team that you played for last season, but I thought this team had a bright future,” said Watson, who averaged 6.8 points and 2.1 assists last season for the Nets. “They’re right in the hunt for winning that championship and getting to the (NBA) Finals and getting past the Heat.

“Like I said, they’re a young team. I see myself playing a lot here and playing well.”

Team president Larry Bird sees the same thing for Watson, who started eight games last season when Williams was injured.

“We said we’re going to upgrade our bench, and we’re in the process of doing that,” Bird said. “We feel like (Watson) is going to be the type of player and person that we really need.

“We’re very happy to have him.”

Although signed specifically as a backup, Watson has started 67 of his 385 regular-season games and has flourished when given extended opportunities. In the 2011-12 lockout season with the Bulls, he started 25 of 49 games. He averaged 9.7 points in 23.7 minutes per game and averaged a career-best 4.1 assists.

His best NBA season was in 2009-10 at Golden State, where he averaged career-highs of 10.3 points and 27.5 minutes and shot a career-best 46 percent from the field.

Watson looks forward to lending what he can to a refurbished bench, which now includes recently signed free-agent forward Chris Copeland and rookie forward Solomon Hill, after it fell flat in last year’s playoffs.

“Coming in here and being with this team is going to be great,” Watson said. “Every time I came here (with another team), the crowd was pretty rowdy, pretty tough. They (the Pacers) always fought hard on their home court. The fans let you know they’re in the building that day.

“They’re pretty good fans, and I can’t wait to play for them.”

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