Cory Joseph is already playing significant minutes in the NBA Finals. (The Canadian Press)Lost in the excitement of the San Antonio Spurs’ big win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals was an injury to star point guard Tony Parker. Parker, a five-time All Star, sat out the final 10 minutes of Tuesday’s win and the Spurs are concerned he may not be ready to go on Thursday.
That concern may turn into a major opportunity for one of Canada’s rising basketball stars. Cory Joseph, a Pickering, Ont., native, would be the most likely replacement for Parker to start Game 4.
“Parker suffered a right hamstring injury during the Spurs' 113-77 rout over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Finals. He said he's uncertain about the seriousness of the new injury and whether he will be able to play in Thursday's Game 4.
"I'm trying to stay positive," Parker said. "Hopefully … I think it was just tight, a little cramp, a little bit of everything and I'll be fine. I'll wake up tomorrow and I'll be fine, that's my hope. I'll just try to stay positive."
If it’s not, look for Joseph, a second-year player out of the University of Texas to get the start. With the Spurs, to the surprise of some, leading the Heat 2-1, it would be a major, pressure-filled opportunity.
Joseph has had an up-and-down year with the Spurs. He was sent to the NBA D-League earlier this year, but was recalled and started eight games in March when Parker was injured. He averaged 7.2 points and 3.1 assists in nine starts overall.
On Tuesday, with Parker lifted from the game as a precaution, Joseph played more than 20 minutes in the Spurs’ lopsided win over the Heat.
Joseph, the 29th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft after just one season at Texas, has established himself as the Spurs’ No. 2 point guard. The Spurs also have point guard Patty Mills on the roster, but Joseph has been getting the big minutes and would likely start if Parker can’t play in Game 4 or beyond.
Joseph has worked hard to get to this point in his young career. The Star’s Doug Smith profiled him before the NBA Finals began, and pointed out that Joseph actually asked to be sent to the D-League as a rookie.
“[Joseph] was languishing on the end of the bench as a rookie, not getting any playing time or any better and asked for an assignment to the D League’s Austin Toros to work on his game.
“Why not go there, work on my game, get game experience, learn the system more while playing?” he said. “Really, you could do as much workouts as you want but there’s nothing like game experience.
“To go there and get that was great for me, and whenever I got the opportunity here, it made me more ready to capitalize on it.”
Joseph comes from what is becoming Canada’s foremost basketball family. His brother Devoe played in the NCAA with Minnesota and Oregon, and his cousin Kris was a second-round pick of the Boston Celtics in 2012. Kris was released by the Celtics but finished the season with the Brooklyn Nets. Kris’s older brother Maurice also played Division I basketball, with Vermont, and the two went head-to-head in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Parker’s MRI was scheduled for Wednesday morning, so we’ll know soon if he’s ready to go. If not, Joseph will be ready to pounce on his opportunity to play on the game's biggest stage.