CJ Watson returned to the United Center Saturday looking for payback.
“I thought I kind of got mistreated, but it is what it is," said Watson, who started in place of the injured Derrick Rose during the first round of last year's playoffs.
For those who have forgotten, or blocked it out, the Bulls were unceremoniously dispatched from the first round of last year’s playoffs by the Philadelphia 76ers. Watson became the goat and took much of the blame for Chicago’s 79-78 elimination game loss.
Over the summer he left the Bulls to sign with the Brooklyn Nets.
During his first game back in the United Center since signing with the Nets, Watson was asked about the way the season ended last year. He said he felt like he was treated unfairly after the play that ultimately decided the game.
Most fans will remember "the play" all too well: the Bulls were holding on to a slim lead and with the game seemingly in hand, Watson – a career 80 percent free-throw shooter – inexplicably avoided taking the foul by Jrue Holiday. A foul which would have sent him to the charity stripe. Instead, Watson pushed the ball up the floor and passed to Omer Asik who was fouled.
Asik, who shot 46 percent from the free-throw line last season, missed both of his attempts leading to a Sixers rebound and the rest, as they say, is history. Watson talked about how things ended in Chicago last season and didn’t feel as if he deserved any criticism.
“The season ended how it ended. I wasn’t sorry about that,” said Watson who scored three points in Brooklyn’s 83-82 loss to Chicago on Saturday night. “I knew I could do better. It was a critical mistake maybe at the time, but I don’t think it was.”
As a result of bearing the blame for the loss, Watson said he never thought about re-signing with the Bulls over the summer.
Surprisingly enough, Watson elicited virtually no response from the United Center crowd on hand Saturday night. Fans didn’t really boo or cheer him; they just seemed to act as if they didn’t care or as if he’d never played here at all. It was completely opposite of the response that Ronnie Brewer received when the New York Knicks came to town the Saturday prior when he was largely cheered by the crowd.
Over the summer, Watson raised eyebrows when he made a comment that he felt Deron Williams was better than Derrick Rose.
Though Watson may not be fond of how his tenure in Chicago ended, he does have fond memories of being a part of the “Bench Mob.” Many fans may not even be aware that he was the one who originated the name.
“It was fun because we all knew our role, we knew what to do,” said Watson. “We knew who was going to get the ball, who was going to score, who was going to play defense, all that kind of stuff. So we just fit into our roles and everyone played their roles to the best of their ability.”
Follow “Outside Shot” on Twitter (@Outside_Shot) for more Bulls news and information.