If Brookyln-born Utah Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley is surprised that his home borough has an NBA team to call its own in 2012, color us surprised that Tinsley has an NBA team to call his own in 2012 after what looked to be a flamed-out career five seasons ago. And, strangest of all, nobody is more surprised than the metropolitan-area Jazz-hired bus driver that Tinsley had to direct back to the team’s Brooklyn arena following the team’s arrival in New York on Monday.
"He was kind of lost," the Jazz backup point guard said, smiling. "He made about two left turns the wrong way and two right turns …"
Those right turns weren't so right, after all.
"We could've been to the hotel a half-hour (earlier)," Tinsley recalled. "I thought we were staying at another hotel. I thought they knew something I didn't know."
Tinsley had extra motivation to get to the hotel quickly: Jamaal Jr., his 8-year-old son, and other family members.
"They were at the hotel waiting," he said, "and I knew he wasn't going the right direction, so I was just trying to help him out."
Good thing Tinsley’s navigational skills took over, otherwise his mates may not have been rested enough to pull off the two-point win in front of Jamaal’s hometown on Tuesday night. The veteran guard had just two points and two assists in the conquest but, again, all of this is just found money considering the state his career was in a few years ago.
Tinsley was impolitely asked to leave the Indiana Pacers during the 2007-08 season, as they grew tired of his indifferent play on the court and damaging extra-curricular activities off it. After the team was unable to trade the point guard, Tinsley sat out the entire 2008-09 season while collecting checks from the club, seemingly realizing the error of his ways.
Tinsley in Brooklyn on Tuesday (Getty Images)In 2009-10, Tinsley returned to a Memphis Grizzlies club that was undergoing its own reformation and needed a veteran presence. Though the only thing “veteran” about Tinsley’s last years in Indiana was the number of seasons notched in his belt, Jamaal provided that calming attitude in spades down in Tennessee. Though he was thought to have retired after that stint, Tinsley actually took his game to the D-League to start the 2010-11 season; playing eight games for the Los Angeles D-Fenders before the Jazz took the distributor on full time.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround, one that Tinsley has well earned. His former team in Indiana cannot be happy, and Jamaal isn’t exactly tearing up the box score (averaging just three and a half points and under four assists in under 16 minutes a contest spread out over two seasons; with incredibly high turnover rates), the surprising comeback is enough to warrant good vibes.
As is directing a bus full of your teammates toward a waiting five-star hotel, with your namesake son and family waiting to meet you as you visit a week before the Christmas holiday. Topped off with a win in an NBA arena situated in a location you never thought possible.
"It's amazing to come back home and play in Brooklyn, just knowing that they have an NBA team," Tinsley said. "I would never expect that in my NBA career."
Tinsley made a name for himself — in multiple ways — while growing up playing hoops in Brooklyn with his dazzling passing and dribbling skills. He laughs when asked about his childhood nickname, "Mel Mel the Abuser."
"Playing in New York, they always give you nicknames," he said. "That's the nickname they came up for me and it's always carried with me."
Well then. Happy holidays, Mel Mel the Abuser.