One year ago, Jamaal Tinsley was in LA Fitness doing two-a-days. He was training in Atlanta, preparing to make his comeback. It had been over a year since he had last played in the NBA, but he was only 33 years old. When he wasn’t working out, he would watch NBA games and see the same players that he used to run circles around.
“It was difficult, knowing you can still be out there and competing with the best of them,” Tinsley said. “I got up early every day and worked out. I did lots of shooting and lots of conditioning. I maintained a healthy diet and watched tons of basketball.”
After months of hard work and a stint with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League, Tinsley made his way back onto a roster. He received interest from a number of teams, but ultimately signed a one-year-deal with the Utah Jazz.
This season, Tinsley has been a class act in Utah. He has emerged as a leader for the Jazz and has been extremely vocal with his young teammates. Al Jefferson gave him the nickname “The Voice” since he’s always yelling at the group during games and practices.
He has also led by example, showing up to training camp in excellent shape and accepting his role. He only appeared in 12 games prior to the All-Star break, but he remained professional and vocal. Tinsley cheered on his teammates and offered advice from the bench.
“There are some things you can’t control, but you can control staying in shape, eating healthy and producing when your number is called,” Tinsley said.
Since the All-Star break, Earl Watson has been sidelined with an ankle injury and Tinsley has stepped up in his absence. He is averaging 6.9 points and 4 assists in 16.4 minutes. When given the opportunity to start, he posted 9 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals
. As Tinsley believed last year, he still has plenty left in the tank and can contribute when given the opportunity.
“I’m playing with a group of guys who understand the game and they want to get better,” Tinsley said. “They make my job easy when I’m on the court.”
Utah has won four straight games and the team is playing well as they make a push for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Tinsley has been effective backing up Devin Harris, providing a spark off the bench and displaying his tremendous court vision.
On Tuesday night, the Jazz defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 97-90. The highlight of the night was when Tinsley dribbled between Nazr Mohammad’s legs and knocked down an open jumper. The play electrified the home crowd and shifted the momentum in Utah’s favor.
“It was nice, but the win was even better,” Tinsley said.
Tinsley has become a significant contributor for the Jazz, who are just a half game out of the playoff picture in the West. This season, he has shown that he can still compete at this level. He belongs in an NBA arena, not in an LA Fitness gym.