Practice notes: Cory Joseph putting in work
The last player to leave the practice court, San Antonio Spurs rookie point guard Cory Joseph worked tirelessly, hoisting jump shot after jump shot from the elbows, each off a different basketball move.
It took long enough for Joseph to join his teammates in training camp, with immigration issues holding him out of practice until literally hours before the Spurs first–and second-to-last–preseason game. No sense in leaving the court now that he is finally allowed to be on it.
“(The learning curve) is still pretty steep,” Joseph said. “We’re just getting together, I’ve only been here a couple of days now. They’re brigning me along fast, I’m just here everyday trying to get back to work, trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can.”
A quick combo guard with defensive potential, iffy jump shot, and a preference for scoring would seem to draw favorable comparisons to George Hill in his rookie season. A surprise one-and-done first round draft pick out of the University of Texas, Joseph is probably more of a mystery than even his predecessor was coming out of IUPUI.
“I thought he was from Brazil,” joked Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich when training camp opened, possibly referring to where Joseph spent his summer competing for his Canadian national team.
Joseph hopes his time spent with the Canadian team in Brazil against superior competition helps make up for time lost in the summer league and in a shortened training camp.
“Playing for the Canadian national team, meeting Manu and Tiago in Argentina, it was great,” said Joseph. “There were a lot of NBA players there, NBA quality players, and a lot of older guys. I was just learning from that.”
With backup point guard T.J. Ford on the roster and Gary Neal having spent much of the summer honing his point guard skills to help pick up the slack for departed combo guard George Hill, Joseph has the luxury of developing at his own pace this season. Perhaps even in continued anonymity in Austin with the Toros.
While Joseph acquitted himself well in a preseason game with only a shoot around to prepare, the Spurs have a little more depth than when Hill was thrust into action his rookie year. Replacing Popovich’s favorite player, for Joseph, is a longer road than the commute from Canada to San Antonio. Being the last one in the gym is a good start.
Tiago Splitter healthy at last: After getting dunked on by Spurs elder statesman Tim Duncan during the Spurs open scrimmage, second year big man Tiago Splitter could only smile, nod, and laugh.
“Well, I told him I wanted to make him look younger,” Splitter said. “That’s why I let him dunk on me.”
Duncan and Splitter have spent most of their time matched up against each other in training camp, and almost none on the same team, which could give some indication that Popovich plans on starting Blair but definitely shows the inability of either of the Spurs other two big men to matchup with Duncan defensively. The two did, however, spend a good portion of the summer working out together and Duncan expects good things.
“We expected more from Tiago (even before McDyess retired),” Duncan said. “He’s got some time under his belt now, we worked out a lot together this summer, so I expect a lot from him.”
For his part Splitter expects a much better season if only because he is over the nagging injuries that plagued him last year.
“My body feels much better, I feel healthy,” Splitter said. “And that’s more important to me right now.”