Why Kris Joseph deserves the 15th Celtics roster spot (Part Two)
|08.13.12 at 8:00 am ET|
This is Part Two of a two-part series on Kris Joseph. If you missed Part One on Sunday, click here.
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
It’s one thing to have the skill set and a 6-foot-7, 215-pound frame. It’s another to produce on the court.
“Our first game when he was a junior, we were playing DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.),” said Perrow. “They were ranked top five in the country if not top two or three, and we were unranked. We were decent. DeMatha started out the game with a tremendous flow of points on a combination of dunks and other things. Kris was un-rattled.
“He led us to seven or eight straight points and calmed the team down. We knew then we had something special. That’s the way he’s always been. If you ever see him screaming or yelling, you know something’s good, because he’s never all that emotional. He plays with a poker face. He was the calm on our team.”
Same goes for Syracuse. Joseph averaged a team-high 13.4 points to go along with 4.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.4 steals for a balanced Orange squad that resided atop the Division I rankings for much of his senior year before, coincidentally, Celtics first-round picks Fab Melo (academic suspension) and Jared Sullinger (19 points, 7 rebounds) effectively ended his season in a 77-70 loss to Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight (“We don’t bring it up,” said Joseph of Sullinger. “We did once, but we haven’t brought it up again.”). There’s a reason the Orange were 10.5 points better with Joseph on the floor this past season than with him on the bench.
“He had a stretch toward the middle part of the season, when we needed something big, he got it done,” said Autry. “It was efficient. That’s always the thing that impressed me about him. He never took a lot of shots. He was always efficient. Against West Virginia, there was a stretch we got him in a post-up, and he made a step-through move, then came down and nailed a 3, and then grabbed a tough rebound.
“There’s certain things he does that, in my mind, I’d say, ‘He’s a pro.’” And soon enough, he was.
Joseph isn’t without his flaws. He shot just just 42.1 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from 3-point range in his senior season.
“I think he can be a contributor at the NBA level,” said Perrow. “He needs to work on his jump shot and get it a little bit cleaner. His ball handling has to be an edge better, but it’s not like he’ll be playing the one or anything. He’s a good three.
“He can already pass and dribble enough to get to the hole, which is really all he needs to be able to do, so if he can add a nice jump shot to his game and become more tenacious on boards, I think he can definitely be an asset to somebody’s team.”
“He can handle the ball and get around anybody,” added Malone. “I think once he gets consistency on his jump shot, especially from NBA 3-point range, that can carry him a long way.
“When you’re playing with guys like [Kevin] Garnett and Paul [Pierce], who draw so much attention, you’ve gotta make shots when the ball swings to you,” he continued. “If he gets that consistency with his jump shot, he’ll be a helluva player with the Celtics.
“He can bring a lot to the table. He can rebound and handle the ball. You’re not gonna find a lot of 6-7 guys who can handle the ball like him. When he starts making the jump shot really consistently, he can be a big-time player.”
Joseph understands this criticism, especially after shooting just 36.7 percent from the field and 10.0 percent from long distance during his 10 summer league games for the Celtics in Orlando and Las Vegas.
“I like the fact that I was coming off some pin-downs in Orlando and Vegas and knocking down that mid-range shot,” he said. “I just want to be consistent at that, find a niche and just get great at it. In this league, it’s good to be good at everything, but you want to be great at one thing, so I need to find that and keep working on it.”
And you can’t talk about a Syracuse product without at least mentioning the fact Joseph played almost solely in Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone defense over the past four years. Although, Autry assures, “He knows how to play man-to-man, because he plays it in practice. Whenever we did it, he’d jump to the ball, locate the ball, deny the ball and know where to help. He knows that, and he knows it better than what people say. He can play man.”
‘HE HAS FIRST-ROUND PICK TALENT’
By now, after hearing Joseph’s former coaches laud his impact at the high school, AAU and collegiate levels, you’re probably wondering how Joseph fell to the No. 52 pick in this June’s draft. You’re not the only one.
“Me, personally, from what I heard and from talking to a lot of people, I didn’t think there were many guys as talented as him after the top 10,” said Malone, whose program also produced Jeff Green and Michael Beasley, among others. “Everybody was kind of the same. What you got at 28 you got at 52. It was one of those drafts. I thought he definitely could’ve been a first-rounder. If he makes the team, he’ll be a good player. They’ll like him.”
“I think he can go as high as he wants to go,” added Autry, who played alongside NBA draftees Billy Owens, Lawrence Moten and John Wallace as a point guard in the early 1990s for the Orange. “I’ll say this: I was reading something — and it might’ve been Doc Rivers — and he said, ‘He has first-round pick talent.’ And I agree. There’s not too many guys in that first round where he goes against them and it’s a huge difference. It’s not. It’s not. For whatever reason, he dropped to wherever he did.
“He has so much potential. He’ll get better. With a lot of guys that stay in college for four years, you see their ceiling, but he hadn’t played a lot of high-level basketball until high school. He’s really only in his sixth year of playing at a high level. He stills has room to grow, and you can see him make that adjustment every year.”
If Joseph had a chip on his shoulder over dropping in the draft, he’s already brushed it off.
“I wouldn’t call it [a chip],” he said. “I’ve heard that before, and deep down I knew I was [a first-round talent], but I couldn’t ask for a better situation. It’s a first-class organization, and I get a chance to learn from some future Hall-of Famers, so there’s definitely no shame in that, and I’m definitely not disappointed, either.”
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR GREEN JERSEY?
If Joseph’s insistency upon consistency sounds familiar, it’s because his college coaches instilled it in him.
“I don’t care what level you’re coaching, especially when it’s someone trying to make the team and come into the league, you’re looking for consistent effort and production,” said Autry. “That’s something all athletes have to do. If he can do that, he’ll be fine. Learning to play in that system, consistency is key. Whether it’s shooting, energy, getting out on defense, whatever the role is that they need, if he can be consistent, that will help.”
It just so happens the Celtics have a role that seems to suit Joseph to a tee. With the apparent departure of Mickael Pietrus, the C’s need depth at the wing, even with Green in the fold.
How does Joseph envision his role? “Coming off the bench and being some kind of a spark. Rebounding the ball. Just being a high-motor guy for the team off the bench. Whether it be five minutes or whether it be 10, just coming off and doing what I do best: Rebounding the ball, trying to excel in transition and things like that.”
Whatever Joseph lacks entering training camp, it’s not confidence. “If anything, I’m more excited,” he said. “I’m not intimidated at all. I’m just looking forward to going in there and learning from Doc and the coaching staff and the players.” Not that he’s getting ahead of himself. Twice, Joseph reminded himself to “just be like a sponge,” soaking up knowledge from guys like Pierce, whose game he’s admired since before he left Montreal.
“I think he can be a very, very decent guy capable of bringing a lot of versatility to the Boston Celtics organization,” said Malone. “As a rookie, being around older guys like Pierce and other veterans, once he learns the NBA game, he can be a good player, especially as a No. 52 pick. I really believe he has just as much talent as anybody in the first round, and he’s got the veterans there to teach and bring that talent out.”
Now, Joseph has a chance to back up one of his boyhood idols in Pierce. Not bad for the “lazy” kid from Canada.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the NBA for a long time,” said Autry, “and I think he’ll be effective.”
“It’s every kid’s dream to hear his name called on draft night,” finished Joseph, “and I was blessed enough to have my name called and even more blessed that it was called by the Boston Celtics. … I’m happy to be here.”
As always in Joseph’s career, how long he stays depends upon his potential. Whether he realizes it or not.