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Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Best of both worlds for Joseph

By Greg Payne
ESPNBoston.com

When the curtain lifted at the Celtics' practice Tuesday, the media received a bit of a surprise when rookie forward Kris Joseph was seen sitting on the sideline next to injured guard Avery Bradley.

Kris Joseph
Joseph attempts to block a shot by Kyle Gibson of the Canton Charge. "It's real good, going there, giving me an opportunity to play and work on some game-time things, not just practicing," he said of his assignment to the Red Claws.

Joseph, along with rookie center Fab Melo, was assigned to Boston's D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, on Nov. 14, and it was thought that the two youngsters wouldn't be seen for quite some time. But thanks to the Celtics agreeing to a single affiliation with the Red Claws over the summer, they are free to assign and recall players as often as they would like.

So, with the Red Claws not playing again until Friday night, the C's elected to bring Joseph and Melo back up to be around the team.

"They don't have a game, and we don't have a lot of players," coach Doc Rivers said. "The greatest part about [the single-team affiliation with the Red Claws] is it's an hour-and-a-half drive, and they can drive up and practice and go back home -- I don't know what [Joseph] calls home, Boston or Maine, but it's been a pretty good thing so far for us."

After practice, Joseph emerged to discuss what the process has been like for him so far.

"It's cool, real cool," he said. "It's real good, going there, giving me an opportunity to play and work on some game-time things, not just practicing, playing in a real game under the whistle, so it's been a great experience so far for these past two games.

"I've been through the process of being patient and waiting your turn, and right now I'm just really learning. I watch every game the Celtics play when I'm away, and when I'm here, I'm either at a game or here at practice or just trying to learn and keep getting better."

Joseph played an integral role in leading the Red Claws to victories in their first two games, averaging 25.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 39 minutes per game. He opened the season with a game-high 28 points in a 123-115 victory over the Canton Charge and followed that up with 23 points in a 117-112 win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (and old friend JaJuan Johnson). Joseph admitted he went in underestimating the talent that has spread throughout the minor leagues of basketball.

"You know, those guys down there are really good," Joseph said. "Because even if you think about the guys on my team, I have Shelvin Mack who played with the Wizards and Chris Wright who got called to Golden State, Xavier Silas with the Sixers, so there's a lot of talent in that league, and a lot of people, myself included -- I didn't know how good of a league it was before actually being a part of it. So, it's been great. Being here and playing against these guys every day and going there definitely gave me a slight advantage, because I'm playing against some of the best in the world."

The perception of the D-League has changed, compared with years past, which is a crucial part of the process for Joseph and Melo. Whereas in years past, some players, including Bradley at one time, saw trips to Maine as a demotion, the D-League now seems to be better embraced by younger players looking for playing time on veteran-laden teams.

"At the end of the day, if anyone had the choice, I'm sure they would pick to stay up here," Joseph said. "But, at the end of the day, with my situation, especially, I wasn't getting much time and it was going to be hard for Coach to find that time for me, so the front office did a great job of coming to the conclusion of sending me down there and I was all for it, because I thought it would be beneficial for my game in the future and in the long run."

Kris Joseph
"I know that coach Mike Taylor was telling me that the Claws haven't started 2-0 in a long time, if ever, and he said the fan base is really great, pretty similar to the Celtics' fans," Joseph said.

In a way, Joseph and Melo should be somewhat grateful the D-League is even an option for them. It's a stark contrast to what happened last season to Boston's rookies -- Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. Because of injuries, the Celtics needed to keep those players around, but the condensed schedule as a result of the lockout meant practically no practice time. And because they weren't playing in games on a consistent basis, they were basically left floundering, and it's not a stretch to imagine that their individual growth as players didn't reach its full potential in their first year in the NBA.

So it's with a sense of purpose and a desire to improve their games that Joseph and Melo will make the trek back and forth between Boston and Maine. But Joseph joked about the need for the pair to drive separately in their own cars.

"No, we drive our own cars. We drive separate," Joseph said. "Because when we're here, I don't want to have to be picking him up when he has to go places, you know what I mean? So, he drives his own car, I drive my own."

Tuesday was just a pit stop for Joseph and Melo, who will hike back up to Maine for practice leading up to Friday's home opener against the Los Angeles D-Fenders. You won't hear any grumbles out of Joseph about the car rides. He's excited to have the opportunity to play, and he's looking forward to the team debuting in front of its home crowd.

"I know that [Red Claws] coach Mike Taylor was telling me that the Claws haven't started 2-0 in a long time, if ever, and he said the fan base is really great, pretty similar to the Celtics' fans, and I know they're looking forward to a winning season, and I'm sure they're looking forward to seeing us play on Friday," he said.