T.J. Ford, Cory Joseph and Austin
For a day at least, both former Texas Longhorn point guards T.J. Ford and Cory Joseph once again represented the great city of Austin—even if it was while practicing in San Antonio.
With the return of backup point guard T.J. Ford, Joseph was reassigned to the Austin Toros in the Development League over the weekend.
For all intents and purposes, Joseph should currently be a sophomore in college. He was drafted near the end of the first round to potentially replace the departed George Hill, but enters the NBA an even rawer prospect than Hill was.
While Ford is a proven veteran, his conditioning, basketball rhythm, and overall reintegration with the team all have a ways to go following his return from a torn hamstring.
For different reasons both point guards need practices, which unfortunately have been a rare commodity during this condensed lockout season.
The San Antonio Spurs have always been on the cutting edge of utilizing the NBA Developmental League, from developing young talent specifically within the confines of their system, to implementing new training and nutritional practices.
Monday the Spurs utilized the Toros in yet another unique way. Taking advantage of the Austin’s close proximity to San Antonio, the Spurs assigned Ford to the Toros for a one-day rehab stint and brought their entire roster over to the Spurs practice facility to workout with Ford.
Rest is at a premium this season, and with a few days off, head coach Gregg Popovich gave the team Monday off. At this point, however, repetitions are more important than rest for Ford. In this scenario the Toros acted almost like an NBA version of the NFL’s practice squad, giving Ford some bodies to workout with that are already accustomed to the team’s schemes without taxing the players on the Spurs active roster.
It also gave the Spurs coaches an opportunity to look closer at Cory Joseph. While the Spurs have hardly skipped a beat in Ford’s absence, the injury cost Joseph some crucial development time while he sat on the bench as an emergency point guard instead of playing games in Austin.
And more important than playing time for players like Joseph, or even James Anderson, is the lack of practice opportunities to correct mistakes. Young players need repetition and court time to work on their games. The Toros are not playing a condensed season; they have a normal practice schedule. One that allows for Joseph to make mistakes during games, and then hit the practice courts to correct those mistakes.