Person who could benefit from Tony Parker’s injury: Cory Joseph
When San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker went down with an ankle injury on Friday night against the Sacramento Kings, it wasn’t just Nando De Colo and Patty Mills who were left with an opportunity to make a mark. The backup point guard has been a question mark in a season sparse with unknowns, and while it’s likely that one of Mills or De Colo will step up and fill some void ahead of the postseason, Cory Joseph stands to gain plenty in Parker’s absence.
Called up the day before the Spurs’ 130-102 win over the Kings to be an extra body with Gary Neal and Stephen Jackson both battling recent injuries, the Spurs were fortunate to have Joseph in uniform when Parker got hurt. Joseph played just under 11 minutes against the Kings and fouled out with nine points on 3-for-3 shooting and two rebounds.
“It was good to see him like that, we haven’t seen him in a while and I think he contributed,” Manu Ginobili said after the game. “Of course, he was a little antsy and he fouled out in a short period of time.
“I think you can see he’s going to contribute, he was aggressive and shared the ball.”
Joseph has spent the majority of his second season on assignment with the Austin Toros of the D-League, where he’s averaging 19.4 points, 5.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, and shooting almost 48 percent from the 3-point line.
Earlier this season, the Spurs exercised their third year team option on Joseph, meaning he’s going to be a Spur against next season, which is good. Though we’ve seen very little from Joseph with the big club, he’s still only 21 years old. And his salary for 2013-14 is only $1.1 million, so San Antonio isn’t exactly sacrificing a lot of cap flexibility by keeping him around.
The Spurs then face the decision of whether or not to exercise their fourth year team option on Joseph. The team has until October 31 to decide to keep Joseph under contract for his fourth season in the NBA.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, signed by the players union and the NBA owners before last season, a change was made to allow teams to assign players to the D-League at any time during their first three years in the NBA. Previously, it was a player’s first two years in the league. With this change — and the fact that Mills and De Colo will both be under contract next season (though Mills has a player option) — it’s likely we’ll see Joseph spend most of his third season in Austin.
If so, that could make Joseph the example everyone points to as a successful team using the NBA as a minor league system.
Teams pull players from the D-League several times a season, especially when 10-day contracts are on the table, but we haven’t seen a team draft a player and invest such a long time developing him in the D-League. Then again, so few teams are fortunate to have the depth on the active roster where they don’t need a capable body with the NBA club. Joseph’s tenure with the Spurs thus far is an outlier, if you will.
With that likely schedule ahead of him, Joseph has few opportunities to impress in NBA minutes. Heading into Friday night, next year’s training camp and preseason would be his only extended time against regular Spurs opponents. The majority of Joseph’s looks would be limited to the D-League and the NBA Summer League, where Joseph was a star that burned bright last summer.
Instead, Joseph gets a chance to impress in front of Gregg Popovich and the rest of the Spurs coaching staff for an undetermined amount of time. It won’t be a lot of minutes, as Mills and De Colo are still legitimate NBA rotation players, but it should be enough time to give the Spurs’ brass a look at how Joseph’s development in Austin is paying off.
That CoJo hadn’t played any NBA minutes in a month and a half and still managed to knock down all three of his shots and not look completely overwhelmed against Sacramento is a good sign. He’s not the biggest point guard out there, but he has a good wingspan and could be a solid defensive guard in the coming years. He’ll also have the opportunity to fine tune an improving jumpshot under the eye of Spurs assistant coach Chip Engelland.
We’ve seen the work that Engelland and Chad Forcier have done with De Colo and Kawhi Leonard this season and last, so any development time with the Spurs is good for Joseph.
Assuming Parker’s left ankle injury isn’t a catastrophic one capable of derailing the Spurs’ entire 2012-13 season, it could have its positives. Joseph has been playing well with the Austin Toros and some NBA minutes and time with the Spurs’ development coaches could serve him well before he goes back to Austin. At 21 years old, Joseph is a young player with a lot of basketball ahead of him. But you know what they say, there’s no time like the present.