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Scott Howard-Cooper

Before he got the opportunity at another shot in the NBA, Jamaal Tinsley was playing in the D-League.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Tinsley getting chance at redemption with Jazz

Posted Jan 10 2012 10:53AM

The point is, he's back in the NBA. Barely -- signed in training camp, so far down the bench that he is issued a telescope each night along with the uniform to be able to track the game -- but on a roster and in actual arenas this time.

So what that it's the Jazz. The coupling is unexpected, and probably one of the big surprises anywhere of the young season, but that's mostly perception.

The reality?

Salt Lake City is one of the best places for Jamaal Tinsley to be. Maybe even the best place, speaking of unexpected.

Tinsley last played in the league in 2009-10 with the Grizzlies, appearing in 38 games, and prior to that in 2007-08 for the Pacers, before his world stopped. When this season started, he was with the Lakers' affiliate in the D-League, playing home contests at the parent club's practice facility. He needs minutes, and that's not happening with the Jazz.

More than that, though, Tinsley needs to rebuild his reputation, no matter how often he says he does not have anything to prove to anybody. Because he does, of course. He was banished by the Pacers in 2008 after a series of run-ins with the law, told to stay away from the team and its facilities, removed from the media guide despite being on the roster and under contract, his name plate removed from the locker room, his belongings shipped to his home. Indiana made it a stand for principle, hoping to trade Tinsley but refusing to negotiate a buyout that in the eyes of management would have rewarded a player for his misdeeds.

The standoff lasted until July 2009, when the Pacers, facing an arbitration hearing that Tinsley hoped would force a resolution, finally agreed to a buyout and an official breakup. Due $14.7 million the next two seasons, Tinsley got $10.7 million to go away for good, the Indianapolis Star reported.

One of the promising young point guards of the game after averaging 9.4 points and 8.1 assists as a rookie had practically become radioactive. His personality and maturity was the issue, not his play, along with concerns about durability. He got the short stint from the Grizzlies and nothing else. He was in the D-League at age 33.

The Jazz offered a contract and no promises. They wanted an insurance point guard and could dump Tinsley at the first sign of trouble with no serious financial hit. He wanted back in and jumped at the opportunity.

There have been more snickers than playing time -- surely the world has been turned on its side if conservative Utah, of all teams, is the team that has thrown Tinsley the life preserver. Except that it makes perfect sense.

He needs to show he can be a good citizen, and no place affords him a better chance. That contrast of his past and their history is exactly what can work in his favor, exactly because this franchise would turn away from a troubled player faster than any. If he lasts, that proves it: Tinsley is not a problem.

Even the lack of playing time can spin in his favor. At 4.4 minutes a game, the fewest on the team, and with five appearances in the first eight contests, the Jazz have no need to break a sweat dealing with him. He isn't making enough of a contribution to be worth a headache. The first sign of negative energy, gone.

"A good organization," Tinsley said. "A couple years ago, Utah wouldn't have picked a guy up like me. They've given me an opportunity. I wouldn't take nothing back. I just learned from my mistakes and it made me a better person."

"I think he changed," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I think he changed and understood what he needed to do to have a chance to play in this league, and he's cherishing the moment to get an opportunity to get another chance to play in this league."

The initial impression is nothing short of raves.

"He's been tremendous," Corbin said. "A complete pro. He came into camp, first of all, in great shape. His attitude has been about working and just getting better and competing every minute he's on the floor. He's cherishing the moment. He's waiting for opportunities, and any time we get an opportunity to put him in a game, he's ready to go. He's cheering for his teammates on the bench, saying all the right things in the locker room. He's been tremendous for us."

This is a good start. This is a good place.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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