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Thunder mystery: No one will say why Earl Watson benched

By Darnell Mayberry Modified: March 26, 2009 at 1:19 am •  Published: March 26, 2009
He scored a season-high 18 points with seven assists, six rebounds and two steals against Denver on March 11.

"Basketball-wise, you could say we’re a young team trying to figure out who we can move forward with as an organization,” Watson said. "Business-wise, it could be a different reason, a completely different angle.”

That angle could be Watson is no longer in the plans. The Thunder came close to trading him at least once this season in a three-team deal that would have sent him to Charlotte back in January and would have brought Dallas’ Jerry Stackhouse to Oklahoma City.

Watson, who is earning $6.2 million this season, would also be the team’s highest paid player next year at $6.6 million in the final year of his deal if he is not dealt this summer.

A small piece of the puzzle could be that Watson is set to earn twice as much as Atkins next year and the team is evaluating whether Atkins, 34, can still be a full-time backup. Of Atkins’ $3.48 million salary for next season only $760,000 is guaranteed.

When asked if Watson will see the court again this season, Brooks didn’t rule out the possibility, saying "everybody has to be ready to play.”

"There are going to be opportunities for all guys to be thrown in,” Brooks said. "But with Earl, he’s been a pro. He’s handled it very well. I’m proud of the way he’s handled it. He’s been terrific. He has to continue to work and be ready. You never know. His name will be called.”


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