Cory Joseph is creeping into the backup point guard conversation
AT&T CENTER — Nando De Colo gets the headlines for his late-game heroics in the Spurs’ 101-99 win over the Hawks on Wednesday night, but Cory Joseph looks like the young guard blossoming for the Spurs. With Tony Parker and Patty Mills both sitting out the Spurs’ second preseason game, Joseph was tabbed as San Antonio’s starting point guard. CoJo’s shooting numbers (four points on 2-8 from the field) didn’t look good, but his knowledge of when to attack the defense and control of the Spurs offense was impressive.
Joseph seemed to know the right time to press the Hawks transition D. He seemed to master the difficult task of not dribbling too much and he wasn’t afraid to push the ball ahead with a pass, as most point guards like to dribble their way up. Joseph got the ball to teammates in spots to score and when opportunities weren’t there and the Spurs risked getting out of control, Joseph was there to get the ball back and get set up the San Antonio offense. He finished with five rebounds and four assists and just two turnovers in 28+ minutes.
Defensively, Joseph has also shown some improvement since last season. While not the biggest point guard around, he’s got a long wingspan capable of harassing opponents. Drafting Joseph reminds me a bit of the Spurs grabbing George Hill in 2008, except Joseph is arguably more capable of running the team’s offense than Hill was. The Spurs plucked Hill, essentially a complete unknown, late in the first round because he had the frame to be a defensive pest. They were then able to develop other aspects of his game offensively.
It seems they were looking for the same qualities in Joseph. CoJo doesn’t have the combo guard flexibility of Hill, even though Joseph has the rep as a score-first guard, but CoJo could fill a role as a backup point guard / spot starter for a long time, and come at a cheaper price after his rookie contract is up than Hill did. Joseph’s shot is still a work in progress, but it’s coming along and he’s developing a similar ability to finish with contact that Hill and Tony Parker have.
The longer Patty Mills sits with an ankle injury and Joseph plays well, the Spurs could be in for a point guard dilemma. Would the Spurs keep Joseph in San Antonio as Tony Parker’s backup and move Mills? Or is Joseph destined for Austin once again? Time will tell, but some pressure could be mounting for Mills to get back on the floor and Gary Neal to impress as Parker’s backup.
Other notes from the Spurs’ win over the Hawks:
- Nando De Colo came in as the backup point guard in the game and had the unfortunate task of defending Jeff Teague, one of the quicker guards in the league, for a stretch. Saying De Colo did well would be a lie, but he didn’t get lit up. De Colo’s quickness is obviously going to be a problem when he plays point and Teague was able to create space for himself wherever he wanted. But to his credit, De Colo didn’t make any dumb gambles.
- DeJuan Blair knocked down a 16-18 foot jumpshot in the first quarter. I wrote pregame that Blair’s form looked good, I just had concerns about his slow release and inconsistent hand placement. Johan Petro, defending on the play, made no effort to defend the shot, but it’s still nice to see. Hitting that shot can only breed confidence for Blair, and the more confidence he gets in his shot, the better off the Spurs are.
- After a big dunk in the first quarter, Eddy Curry committed a cardinal sin. Curry slammed the ball home, grabbed it out of the net, screamed one of those screams you let loose after a dunk and then tossed the ball off the basket support. This all happened right in front of Popovich and the Spurs bench. It was one of those me-first moments that doesn’t fit into Pop’s “get over yourself” credo.
- Tiago Splitter seemed completely disinterested in playing basketball in this game. Splitter had trouble getting calls on contact and maybe he’s still working back into shape after missing a few practices with back spasms, but he really didn’t look good. On one play, Splitter helped on the pick-and-roll but made no effort to recover and his man ended up with a wide open dunk. He fumbled a lot of passes on offense and was generally as ineffective as his two points suggest. He did have six rebounds in 13 minutes, though. So there’s that.