Mark L. Baer/US Presswire
Kris Joseph defends Jason Kidd during exhibition play Saturday in Hartford, Conn.BOSTON -- Celtics rookie Kris Joseph survived the first round of training camp cuts on Tuesday as Jamar Smith and Dionte Christmas were released from the team. But Joseph's job isn't necessarily secure yet. The second-round pick out of Syracuse still is working on a non-guaranteed contract, and head coach Doc Rivers would like to see more out of him.
"You can see the ability there. He really hasn’t done anything yet," Rivers said before Tuesday's 97-96 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. "But we look at a lot of things when we decide to keep a guy or not keep a guy, and we like what he potentially can be. But he hasn’t done anything yet."
Playing time has been sparse for Joseph this preseason. He's played just 32 total minutes through Boston's first five exhibition games, but knows he has to remain ready with the preseason evaporating quickly.
"Any time I do get in there, they just tell me to be aggressive, but be smart aggressive," Joseph said. "Don't just go out there and try to jack up shots. Play within the team and be smart about how you're going to play.
"I'm just going to try to be aggressive when I do get my opportunities and the main thing is always being ready when your number's called, no matter if it's 30 seconds left in the game, 30 seconds left in the half, quarter, you've got to be ready. Five minutes, you've got to be ready."
Joseph hasn't had many opportunities to utilize his best abilities on the court, namely his athleticism, which would lend itself to Boston's goals of pushing the pace when transition opportunities present themselves. Tuesday saw Joseph with a chance to win the game on Boston's final play, but with only 1.3 seconds on the clock, his rushed, contested jump shot didn't fall.
The lack of playing time hasn't put a damper on Joseph's initial foray into the NBA. Taken with the 51st overall pick in last June's draft, Joseph played four seasons at Syracuse, leading the Orange in scoring his senior year. The transition to the professional ranks already has left a lasting impression on him, as Joseph says he's "blessed to be a part of something like this."
Joseph added, "At first, the whole thing is kind of surreal. You date back to draft night when you hear your name called, and that's a moment you wait for, you dream of as a kid, and it finally happens. So that's the first thing. That's surreal. Playing summer league, just gaining that experience to play on this level with other draft picks, other veterans who've been in the league. And, coming to training camp, playing with some future Hall of Famers, a future Hall of Fame coach, it's just been a great experience for me overall."
More than anything, it's been a learning experience. With the realization that this game has now become his profession, Joseph knows it's more important than ever to pick things up quickly and make smart decisions -- both on and off the floor.
"On the court, just being patient, taking your shots, the shots that you know that you're able to make, not playing outside of yourself," Joseph said of what he's learned so far. "Because everything that I've done up to this point has gotten me here, so don't do anything differently really. And just being patient on the court."
Off the floor, Joseph said it's all about managing things, particularly his body and his time. He's seen changes in his sleeping habits -- he's been opting for more of it lately -- and has cut down on some of his other interests, including video games and movies, in order to get the necessary amount of rest.
"Off the court, you've got to know your body. Talking to some of the veterans like [Kevin Garnett] or [Rajon] Rondo, especially, just letting me know: Know your body," Joseph said. "If you're someone who can stay up and still perform -- me, I like to watch movies, I like to play video games. I might stay up until 2 in the morning playing [NBA] 2K or something. But if you have to go to practice or go to a game and you can't perform, then you've got to cut something. Something's gotta give. This is your job now. You've got to sacrifice certain things, so I changed my sleeping routine. I sleep a good amount, about nine or 10 hours of sleep every night. I think that helps me the next day a lot, during practice, during games."
The last five months have to seem like a bit of a whirlwind for Joseph, but enjoying the ride has never been an issue. He acknowledged the team's trip to Istanbul and Milan as the highlight of training camp so far, but also noted that, overall, his entire NBA experience has exceeded his expectations. Not only is he with a franchise that has a very respectable reputation, but he's playing in a league that's competitive on a nightly basis.
"I know here, everyone says it a lot, everyone I've talked to tells me I'm lucky to be a part of a team like this, just because, I always say it, they're a first-class organization and they do things a lot differently according to some of the other guys in the league," Joseph said. "Like I said, they've exceeded everything, my expectations, just playing in the league, just knowing that there's never one game you go into thinking, 'We're going to win by 20.' Some teams in college, you know, we played Colgate, you know, you can mark that with a 'W' on your calendar. Here, it's not like that. You could play the bottom of the league and you have to give it your all."
Right now, giving it his all is all that Joseph can do.