But one old spur seemed to fly under the radar despite remaining a league fixture for over a decade now with five different teams. On the eve of his second full season with the Detroit Pistons, point guard Cory Joseph still hasn’t forgotten his time in San Antonio and how it launched his career to new heights.
Joseph spoke to jefe island, a hoops media platform that has conducted numerous interviews with current and former NBA players on the process project and what it meant to him to be selected 29th overall by the Spurs in 2011 before becoming NBA champion in 2014.
“I got drafted by Spurs which was the best situation for me and for my career,” Joseph said. “I’m grateful every day to have been drafted by them.”
The Toronto native spent a year on the road in Austin with the Texas Longhorns before being drafted at age 20. Even at such a young age, coach Gregg Popovich and the front office haven’t provided Joseph with the usual thrilling draft call that most first-round picks get. Classic move from an organization that has always kept things business as usual.
“San Antonio, man,” Joseph said. “It’s a great organization, everyone knows that. They’re funny, though, because I didn’t even know I was going to be drafted by San Antonio until I saw my name. Usually you get the call ahead… but I didn’t even get the call David Stern came out and announced my name.
Joseph used four full seasons with the team to become an elite finisher with a quick burst and dribble separation, as well as a dependable playmaker in the backcourt. He served as a vital depth piece and playmaker behind Tony Parker, but Joseph said the Spurs legend’s unique learning style forced him to adapt quickly as a rookie during the lockout-shortened off-season in 2011.
“We didn’t even have a week of training camp, and we were in the middle of a game,” he said. “So I had to pick things up on the fly, especially with an organization like that. Tony, Manu, Tim and all those guys were there for a long time already. So Tony is walking on the pitch, he’s waving hand and calling games. And I look like ‘fuck, I have to learn all these hand signals.’ I have to learn sign language basically because he didn’t say a word. I had to learn a lot for sure.
This year’s NBA Finals features one of Joseph’s former assistant coaches, Ime Udoka. He is the head coach of the Boston Celtics, who are currently tied at 2-2 with the Golden State Warriors. Last year’s champion Milwaukee Bucks introduced another coaching mentor as Mike Budenholzer led the team to their first ring in over 50 years.
Joseph says those two, along with a handful of others, put their hearts into helping him develop during his early years in the league, something he still cherishes to this day.
“I shit sometimes for sure,” Joseph said. “But I mean Pop, Chip Engelland, Chad Forcier, Ime Udoka, (Mike) Budenholzer, all those guys were there when I was there. “We train before practice, after practice, all the time. They really invested a lot of time in me, and that’s all you can ask for.
After earning a ring in 2014, Joseph spent one more season with the Spurs before signing with his hometown Toronto Raptors in the 2015 offseason. He averaged a season-high 9.3 points. in career, during his second year with the team before being distributed to the Indiana Pacers. He’s now had stints with the Sacramento Kings and Pistons as he seeks to find a permanent home with a rebuilding Detroit team.
Joseph averaged 5.2 points, 1.9 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 204 career games with the Spurs. He played 14.9 minutes per game, making 43 starts while shooting 47% from the floor.
And Spurs fans will probably never forget his incredible poster dunk against sniper blocker and longtime San Antonio rival at Oklahoma City Serge Ibaka in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. 2014. Spurs lost that game, but it was one of the most memorable games in a magical league run.