Next: After a 2-year progression in the background, Kris Joseph is ready to lead Syracuse

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Comments Among a mass of huddled reporters stands Kris Joseph. He’s now the center of attention, at the forefront of another basketball season at Syracuse. At the annual holiday that marks the start of the season — media day — Joseph, the 6-foot-7 junior forward from Montreal, is getting the superstar’s treatment. He fends off question after question, brushing off the notion that he has to replace his former roommate, Wes Johnson, as SU’s next great forward. Yet deep inside, he has been biding his time, waiting for an opportunity like this. ‘This is a big opportunity for me,’ Joseph says. ‘And I’ve been preparing.’ Overshadowed by veterans during his first two years on campus, Joseph is finally in a position to lead the Orange. Johnson, Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku are now gone, leaving Joseph with the keys to the car. It’s a big step for any player, even someone pegged for a breakout year.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text He occasionally wipes the sweat from his brow in between questions. Early expectations are extremely high. Syracuse enters the season as the No. 10 team in the country despite losing three of its best players during the offseason. At least a portion of that is because of Joseph and the anticipation of just how good he can be. ‘This year it’s going to be a much more intense effort on him, and he’s ready for that,’ Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘I think he wants that challenge, and I think he’s fully capable, at this stage of his career, to be a go-to type of guy.’ Joseph’s ability to adapt to his new role could be the difference for Syracuse this season. Though the Orange returns three other key veterans, the spotlight will be on Joseph from the opening tip. Those close to him have seen the year-to-year progress. They see the leaps of development. And they have seen Joseph’s preparation for this opportunity. ‘Last year he started showing what he can do, and this year he’s going to let it all out and let everybody know what he’s capable of,’ said Johnson, now with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. ‘He’s very, very talented. ‘This is his year.’ A kid from Canada In 2006, word was spreading about this mysterious kid from Canada. An athletic forward who could handle, shoot and pass was joining the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, the most prestigious high school basketball league in Washington, D.C. Few had actually seen the kid play, which only added to the intrigue. ‘Everybody was talking about this kid from Canada and about how he could play,’ said former DeMatha Catholic High School guard Austin Freeman, now a senior at Georgetown. ‘We had no idea who he was.’ Looking to gain some exposure playing in a competitive league in the states, Joseph relocated from his hometown of Montreal to Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., prior to his junior year. With Montreal’s limited basketball scene, Joseph viewed the move as an opportunity to showcase his skills on a more recognizable stage. Before his first game in Archbishop Carroll’s green and gold, Joseph did some homework on his opponent. He found that the opposition featured two players who were headed to Georgetown the following year, including Freeman, a McDonald’s All-American. Here was an opportunity for Joseph to justify the hype. Within the first minute of his first game in his new surrounding, Joseph dropped two 3-pointers on DeMatha. Moments later, Joseph slammed home a pair of back-to-back dunks. In his first game, Joseph was dominating one of the area’s top teams. Freeman was finally getting his much-anticipated introduction. And the once-raucous DeMatha gym suddenly turned silent. ‘I looked around and everybody was just stunned,’ Joseph said. ‘It was like, ‘Who is this kid, why is he wearing a green jersey and why is he doing this to us?” DeMatha eventually prevailed. But the cat was out of the bag on Joseph. The performance was the platform he needed to introduce himself as a top-tier Division I prospect. Not long after, the scholarship offers started rolling in. Once Syracuse offered, it was all over. Joseph jumped at the opportunity to be closer to home and play for the team he grew up watching on television in Canada. ‘It takes a certain level of maturity for a kid to come from so far away to a totally different surrounding,’ said Clinton Perrow, Joseph’s head coach at Carroll. ‘He had that maturity about him and knew exactly where he wanted to go from Day 1.’ It’s that maturity and drive that has many thinking Joseph is ready to take the next step and emerge as one of the top players in the Big East this year. For that to happen, Joseph realized early on that he must continue to add to his game. To those around him, he has done just that. ‘He’s just gotten better every year I’ve known him,’ Freeman said. ‘That next step’ Joseph understood early on that he had to make adjustments to his game. As an admittedly overweight freshman at SU, Joseph played sparingly in Boeheim’s rotation. The players were much stronger than in high school. Faster, too. That first year at Syracuse was the ultimate learning experience. ‘I was still learning. It was just a lot different than what I had been used to in high school,’ Joseph said. ‘I knew I had to make adjustments.’ Every year Joseph seemingly adds a different dimension to his game. Returning for his sophomore year 20 pounds lighter, Joseph saw immediate returns on his hard work. He was voted the Big East’s top sixth man, averaging 10.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field. ‘He came in as a freshman and didn’t play a lot but continued to get better, kept his head on straight,’ said former SU point guard Jonny Flynn, also now with the Timberwolves. ‘Since then, he’s done all the right things.’ What began with shedding some weight eventually turned into a nutritional overhaul. As that plan continued to evolve, Joseph began to develop routines that paved the way for him to continually progress as a player. Each step of the way, Joseph has added to his game here and there, and he cut out habits that have hindered his progression. ‘With Kris, you see the progression, you see the growth,’ Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said, ‘and you see him continue to get better and better.’ This summer, knowing he’d be called upon to fill a bigger role, Joseph took to the gym to hone the rest of his game. Specifically, he focused on improving his jump shot. With more scrutiny likely to come from opposing defenses, Joseph’s 22 percent clip from beyond the arc last season just wasn’t going to get it done. His summer was dedicated to reaching that next level. ‘I always want to improve. I never want to go backward in anything I do in life,’ Joseph said. ‘I wanted to go forward, and I have always known exactly what I had to do to take that next step.’ Over the past two years at Syracuse, Joseph has been slowly accumulating a variety of skills that haven’t yet been utilized. With Boeheim now giving him the green light, it’s finally time to see what has been hiding in what Flynn calls Joseph’s ‘shell.’ ‘This year is going to be such a great year for him because he finally gets to break out of that shell that has been sitting there for about two or three years,’ Flynn said. ‘I’m looking forward to him having a big year.’ ‘He can be one of the best players in the country’ Eventually, Nick Resavy stopped anticipating the 1 a.m. phone calls. After weeks of the same routine, Resavy, a junior walk-on, knew exactly where to meet Joseph late at night during the summer. The Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center is a 24-hour facility, and Joseph had to get his shots in one way or the other. He had to take that next step. ‘I told myself at the end of last year that I wanted to become a better shooter,’ Joseph said. ‘So as soon as the season was over and we took our little two-week break, I was back in the gym going hard every night.’ Last season, Joseph scored the majority of his points by slashing to the basket. It was a luxury he had with opposing defenses focusing on Johnson, Rautins and Onuaku. With the focus on Joseph this year, his primary goal this summer was improving his jumper. So late on most summer nights, Joseph would meet up with Resavy or a team manager who would rebound for him. The goal, on most nights, was to make 500 jumpers before heading home. Eventually, it became a routine. ‘Going into the summer, he knew he had to work extremely hard on his jump shot,’ SU assistant coach Rob Murphy said. ‘With the work he put in, I think we’re going to see an even more improved Kris Joseph this season.’ Joseph took a couple weeks off to attend the Kevin Durant Basketball Camp, where he mingled and worked out with some of the best college players in the country. Upon his return to Syracuse, it was back to the late-night regimen. This time, it was not only shooting a bevy of jumpers but also intensely working on his overall game. ‘When he really dedicates himself, he can be one of the best players in the country,’ Resavy said. ‘And I’m sure he knows that.’ Joseph had seen Johnson go No. 4 overall in the NBA Draft after having a big year at SU. On those long days, that served as further motivation when he just didn’t think he had anything left in him. And every step of the way, he had his former roommate constantly poking, prodding and motivating via text messages. When he was in town on Oct. 15 for an NBA preseason game, Johnson saw the evidence of what he considers ‘a much improved jump shot.’ ‘I just kept telling him to stay in the gym, stay working,’ Johnson said. ‘I was always in the gym, trying to drag him with me. So he’s now taking that to heart and texting me to let me know that he’s getting shots up and staying in the gym. I just tell him to keep at it. ‘There are no days off.’ ‘He’s ready’ Sitting with Scoop Jardine and Rick Jackson next to Boeheim at a table inside Madison Square Garden for Big East media day, Joseph sees the media scrutiny again turn to him. By now he understands the expectations placed on him. He’s heard all about it for months, leading right up until Friday’s season opener. And no matter how much he attempts to deflect the attention, he’s the player under the microscope this season. He’s the anointed one. Like Flynn and Johnson before him, the torch has now been handed to Joseph. ‘There is always a guy that Boeheim will pick out to be that guy to lead the team,’ Flynn said. ‘And now that guy is Kris Joseph.’ He isn’t hoping to replace Johnson. He has made that very clear. Instead, he adds himself to the many who are ready to find out just how good Kris Joseph can be. And taking it from Boeheim himself, this year’s chosen one is up for the task. ‘He’s ready,’ Boeheim said. ‘He’s definitely ready.’ [email protected]center_img Published on November 10, 2010 at 12:00 pmlast_img read more

Read More »

New Lakers coach Luke Walton stays focused on helping Warriors repeat

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “His input here is still super valuable,” said Bruce Fraser, a player development assistant.Wearing a navy suit and a gold patterned tie, Walton positioned himself Wednesday in his familiar seat, to Kerr’s left flank. When Klay Thompson buried a first quarter 3-pointer, Walton pumped his fist as if banging a gavel. Several possessions later, when Stephen Curry and Draymond Green mucked up a fast-break attempt and caused a turnover, Kerr threw up his hands and looked to Walton for an explanation.A former forward who played for the Lakers from 2003-12 and won a pair of championships with the organization, Walton has declined interviews since the Lakers announced he had been hired to replace Byron Scott. Walton does not want to give the slightest implication that he is at all distracted from the Warriors postseason run.Of course, it’s impossible for Walton to completely ignore his pending responsibilities. He has been talking to candidates to join his coaching staff, including former Lakers assistant Brian Shaw.Assembling a staff is one of the most important Lakers-related tasks facing Walton right now. May is not an especially busy month for the head coach of a non-playoff team. Note that the Lakers did not sign Byron Scott to a contract in 2014 until the end of July. But hiring a lead assistant – Shaw apparently remains Walton’s top choice – would give him a proxy at pre-draft workouts, a fact noted by NBA.com’s David Aldridge this week. Luke Walton stood on the outer edge of the huddle, bending his 6-foot-8 frame to listen as Steve Kerr gave the Golden State Warriors their final pregame instructions.Before Kerr finished, Walton peeled off from the group, and wandered toward center court, where he planted himself to be the last to give Warriors players high-fives and fist bumps as they took the floor for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night.Walton has no more than a dozen games left as a Warriors assistant, before this season ends either with a second championship or without, and he officially becomes the next coach of the Lakers.Until that time, Walton remains focused on his job in Oakland, advising Kerr on tactical adjustments, working with players and scrutinizing film. The Warriors are tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Game 3 on Sunday.center_img Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said earlier this month that when he and Walton spoke, it was either early in the morning or late at night so Walton’s days could be “solely committed” to the Warriors.“At this time,” Kupchak said, “if he and I can speak for three or four minutes a day, or text once or twice, that’s a good day.”Walton will be stepping into a whole new dynamic with the Lakers, a young team still light on identity but bursting with potential. The roster is expected to be heavily revamped, and the team, which landed the No. 2 pick in the draft, will eventually need to hold workouts with Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons.If these things are weighing on Walton, he has masked it well. Even around the colleagues who know him best.“That wouldn’t be Luke,” Fraser said. “I kind of laugh to myself that when he leaves here he’s going … He doesn’t lead you to believe it, but he’s been on the phone with Mitch and doing other things. But he’s pretty focused on finishing this out the right way.”The Warriors, however, have continued to have fun at Walton’s expense.Kerr captains a laid-back operation — into which Walton fits perfectly – and film session meetings often include footage of a Warriors blunder. A team with 73 wins makes just enough for it to be funny.After he was hired April 29, Walton walked into one such meeting during the Warriors second-round series against Portland, settled into his seat and watched as the first four clips were all of the dreadful Lakers.Walton’s new team.“The guys just go bananas,” assistant coach Ron Adams said. “We’re always kidding about that now.”There may have been no better opportunity for such teasing then on Tuesday, with the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and the Lakers sweating out the draft lottery. The stakes were high. If the Lakers’ pick fell out of the top three, it would be sent to Philadelphia, depriving the Lakers of a much-needed asset.Walton mentioned to Adams that Warriors people should wish him luck. Adams shot back, “You’re a rival of ours. I hope you get the worst pick available.”Shortly before the draft positions were drawn in a hotel ballroom in New York, Warriors vice president of public relations Raymond Ridder sent Walton a text message saying that he had heard the terrible news. The Lakers, he told Walton, had fallen to fourth in the lottery.Walton quickly sent a panicked reply.Wait, what?The next message Walton received from Ridder, in his 14th year as a Warriors executive, was a series of smiling emojis. He’d been duped.Soon after, nearly 3,000 miles away, four pingpong balls were vacuumed, one by one, through the top of a glass drum.The combination of balls numbered 2, 3, 7 and 14 meant the Lakers would not only keep their draft selection in June, but pick second. It was the organization’s first win since Walton came on board.The new coach of the Lakers couldn’t spend much time celebrating, nor being sore over Ridder’s well-time prank.The Warriors had a game the next day.last_img read more

Read More »