No one can accuse C.J. Watson of false advertising in social media circles.
The Indiana Pacers’ guard uses a Twitter handle (@quietstorm_32) that in one fell swoop binds together the 29-year-old’s soft-spoken demeanor, vast hoops potential and jersey number.
“It’s just a nickname my sister gave me when I was in high school, and it’s stuck with me ever since,” Watson said. “It’s very accurate. I’ve been quiet and shy. That’s just been my nature. I’m trying to be humble and let my actions speak louder than my words.”
For a guy who’s been all over the place, Watson’s demeanor is anything but.
His voice is direct. So, too, is Watson’s eye contact while conversing with a teammate, coach, media member or fan.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Watson enjoyed an outstanding career at the University of Tennessee before embarking on a two-year professional basketball career abroad.
Stops in Italy and Greece preceded a 2007-08 season spent as a Rio Grande Valley Viper of the NBA’s Developmental League.
Ever heard of Hildago, Texas, a city of 11,000 residents in the Lone Star State’s southern tip?
Watson has. In fact, he’ll do you one better, having lived there for a time.
“I always felt I could play in the NBA. I went a different route. Didn’t get drafted, went overseas and then went to the D-League,” Watson said. “I’ve just worked hard to get here, and I’m trying to stay here.”
Watson, who as a college senior averaged 15.3 points and 3.9 assists for then-Vols coach Bruce Pearl, caught his big break in 2008 when the Golden State Warriors signed him to a 10-day contract.
Watson impressed Warriors coaches enough that his stay by the bay extended all the way through the 2009-10 season. He even hit the Sacramento Kings with a career-high 40-point haymaker on 16-of-23 shooting from the floor.
He has since suited up for the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and now the Pacers.
Listed as a point guard, the 6-foot-2 Watson has demonstrated 2-guard offensive skills on many occasions this season.
Watson averages 6.6 points off the Indiana bench. On Jan. 10, he knocked down all six of his field-goal attempts for 16 points in a 93-66 demolition of the Washington Wizards.
“You can’t make any more shots than all of them,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said, laughing. “That was a pretty strong night for him, but he’s been solid for us all year. It’s something we’ve come to get used to. Honestly, I just think he’s playing within, playing solid. There’s not one thing I would point out and say he’s not doing this well enough.”
What Watson’s wooden facial expression fails to reveal is the chip he carries around on not one, but both shoulders.
Going undrafted by an NBA franchise nearly eight years ago left unseen scars. The same can be said for having to endure basketball’s scenic route that in some cases featured half- or -quarter-filled gymnasiums on game nights.
“I always go out there and play hard and have to prove myself every year, every game,” Watson said. “I just come in there and try to change the tempo of the game. Try to pressure the ball and be efficient on offense, knock down shots, get other players shots and try not to turn the ball over.”
Watson, along with veteran forward Luis Scola and longtime Pacers swingman Danny Granger, have proved to be the jewels of Vogel’s eight-player group of backup players.
It’s a unit that collectively could stand jump shot to jump shot with some franchise’s starting fives.
“That’s a compliment because we’re still trying to get better as a second unit,” Watson said. “I’m sure a lot of us coming off the bench could be starters for other teams.”
That includes the Quiet Storm himself.