Kris Joseph cracks Celtics roster, inspires Canadian players

Kris Joseph of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against Nick Young of the Philadelphia 76ers...

Kris Joseph of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against Nick Young of the Philadelphia 76ers during a preseason game on Oct. 21, 2012 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (AFP)

BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:07 PM ET

Canadian Kris Joseph got good news this week: He'll make the opening-day roster of the Boston Celtics.

A strong pre-season performance, including stints at point guard and power forward, convinced Celtics coach Doc Rivers to keep the 6-foot-7 Montrealer, who only had a non-guaranteed contract as a second-round pick.

"Sometimes, it's really difficult to believe it because this is a dream that I had since I was very young," Joseph said. "It's a reality that's really difficult certain days, to believe it."

Joseph showed his versatile talent in spurts during summer league play but faced tough competition from veteran guards Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith, both of whom had more experience.

Some observers were surprised when Rivers released Christmas and Smith earlier this month, freeing up more playing time for Joseph in the pre-season.

Joseph, a two-time All-Big East selection at Syracuse, responded, recording back-to-back double-figure scoring games last week during wins over the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks.

Back in Montreal, basketball players follow Joseph's every move and hope his success opens doors for them. Ricardo Monge, who plays for a local community college, says Joseph's work ethic is inspiring.

"Of course, he's a big role model," said Monge, who plays for John Abbott College. "Everyone here in Montreal looks up to him. Once you get one big player that makes it to the league, now coaches want to come up and see more and it's like a chain."

Joseph has drawn rave reviews from Rivers for his rebounding ability and versatility. Rivers forced the athletic forward into an unfamiliar point-guard role in the last two games of the pre-season, and Joseph recorded just two turnovers in 42 minutes.

But barring an injury to superstar Paul Pierce, Joseph figures to see a lot of bench time this season, unless Rivers sends him down to the Maine Red Claws, the team's Developmental League affiliate.

Joseph says he's ready for whatever happens.

"For now all I'm doing is working very hard in training because you never know what will happen," said the soft-spoken wing, who averaged 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in eight pre-season games.

"I work hard every day to be ready. My role will be to play a lot of defence, try to grab all the boards and if there are opportunities to score, I'll take those opportunities."

Joseph is part of an unprecedented wave of basketball talent that has long-suffering Team Canada fans salivating at the possibilities for Olympic success. He is also part of an unusually gifted basketball family, with cousin Cory Joseph backing up Tony Parker at point guard for the San Antonio Spurs.

Cory's older brother Devoe starred for Oregon last season and was on the Raptors summer league team before moving on to the Ukrainian Superleague. Kris's brother Maurice is a former elite player for Michigan State and Vermont.

"It's in the family," said Joseph. "We're blessed as a family to be able to play this sport. We're healthy enough and we have enough support from our family and friends to continue to be able to do it."

brian.daly@sunmedia.ca


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