AP Photo/John Raoux
Kris Joseph has come on strong at the end of the preseason.Early last week, with the Celtics' preseason schedule winding down, rookie Kris Joseph had only two things on his mind: Staying ready and staying aggressive. Though his opportunities for lengthy minutes were few and far between to that point, Joseph was hoping that more chances would come his way, and if they did, he couldn't let them pass him by.
Flash forward to Thursday's 115-85 exhibition victory over the Brooklyn Nets, and sure enough, the minutes were available for Joseph, and he was keen on taking advantage of them. Playing the entirety of Boston's runaway fourth quarter, Joseph scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and added five rebounds, exhibiting the aggressiveness he expected out of himself and his coaches wanted to see.
Just days earlier C's head coach Doc Rivers had admitted that Joseph hadn't accomplished much during the preseason up to that point, but surely his attention was grabbed as Joseph unleashed a flurry of activity around the paint, securing offensive rebounds, tipping in putbacks, and even lining up for a 3-pointer in the waning minutes.
It was easily the most productive stint of Joseph's young NBA career, and he entered Saturday's rematch with the New York Knicks determined to build off of it. This time, the game was still very much on the line when Joseph made his most important plays. With Boston in the midst of a 20-point comeback and down just three at the start of the final frame, Joseph pushed ahead on the fast break in the opening minutes of the fourth, and converted back-to-back 3-point plays in transition, converting the extra free throw in both instances, to vault Boston ahead by three. The Celtics used that spark to forge ahead for good, eventually embarking on a 12-0 run that secured the victory.
Joseph played a preseason-high 26 minutes, finishing with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting (5-of-10 from the free throw line) and three rebounds.
"Kris Joseph was terrific," Rivers said after the game. "He played great, played with a lot of energy, he did a lot of things -- throwing the ball ahead to him on the break where he can beat his guy up the floor. I thought defensively, he was good. And the one thing he has a knack for is, we talked about before the game, is his rebounding. It's unbelievable for his position."
Joseph recently survived the first wave of preseason roster trimming, and Rivers noted after the cuts that Boston was still very much intrigued by Joseph's potential. Not only has his considerable athleticism helped him shine in these extra minutes of late, but he's displayed a toughness under the basket normally reserved for the true veterans of the NBA. Though he's 6-foot-7, the bulk typically needed to bash in the paint isn't there for Joseph, but that hasn't hindered his eagerness to help cause chaos down low, whether it's been tipping in a teammate's miss, or securing a defensive rebound.
"I love Kris Joseph's game," Jason Terry said after Saturday's win. "He's been a rookie that's been like a sponge. He's been willing to listen and learn from the veteran guys, and then, put it, and implement it into the game. And you've seen that tonight. We've been working with Kris from day one, and he's a guy that can definitely help us, and he's going to continue to grow and get better, and he has a long future in this league."
Though his roster spot isn't guaranteed at this point, after two successful stints with increased minutes, Joseph has certainly raised his stock over the last few days. And with Rivers planning to limit the minutes of his key rotation players for much of Sunday's preseason finale against the Philadelphia 76ers in Boston, Joseph could have one last opportunity to really shine through and secure a spot and his immediate future.
He's done all the right things so far, according to Terry, who, when asked what advice he would give to a player like Joseph, said: "Just, 'Ears open, mouth shut,' come to work hard every day and compete, and he's done that."