‘He wants to do what’s best for the Detroit Pistons’ – Cory Joseph’s return was an easy call for Dwane Casey

Cory Joseph
Cory Joseph enjoyed a great run with the Pistons after being acquired at the trade deadline last March and was keen on returning when he hit free agency over the summer
Rick Osentoski (NBA/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

By the numbers, the best stretch of Cory Joseph’s NBA career came with the Pistons after they acquired him at the trade deadline last March. So it was no surprise that he hoped to run it back even though he was coming up on free agency.

But there was at least reason to doubt that might happen. After all, the common assumption when the trade with Sacramento came – sending Delon Wright and the year remaining on his contract to the Kings for Joseph, whose deal for 2021-22 was only lightly guaranteed – was that the Pistons were motivated by the cap space the trade created.

And that wasn’t entirely wrong. But it also didn’t take into account the considerable regard in which Joseph is held by Dwane Casey. So even after the Pistons paid Joseph the lightly guaranteed portion of his 2021-22 salary and waived him over the summer, there was no question which veteran point guard Casey hoped to add to serve as counterbalance to the youth the Pistons already had at the position in Killian Hayes and Saben Lee.

“Huge,” Casey said about the value of getting Joseph signed to a two-year deal. “He’s been a godsend to those young guys. He’s always talking. I love Cory’s spirit.”

Joseph grew up in Toronto and signed with the Raptors as a free agent after spending his first four NBA seasons with San Antonio. Casey, who knew well the story of the Joseph family and its place in Canadian basketball’s grass-roots system, quickly came to appreciate having Joseph on his roster. And Joseph, for his part, loved playing not only in his hometown but for a coach who empowered his players the way Casey does.

So Joseph was more than welcoming when the Pistons let him know that they wanted him back if he was open to a return.

“It’s been better than I imagined,” Joseph said of his second go-around with Casey as his coach. “We have that bond. And coming together with the players, I think it’s a great fit for me and my game. My game completes a lot of players out there. We continue to restore the Pistons and feel like we’re doing a great job with that. People will see the work we’ve put in.”

Part of Casey’s desire to retain Joseph was for his ebullient personality and how that keeps a locker room – especially one as young as this roster’s will be, filled with players who’ve known mostly triumph before arriving to the NBA – buoyant through the 82-game grind’s inevitable ups and downs. Part of it was his certainty that Joseph would not just be accepting of any role but flourish in filling it. And part of it was knowing that Joseph, so steeped in Casey’s system and demeanor, would be the perfect conduit to the team’s young cohort.

“We just work together every day,” Joseph said of his interaction with the many young players he’s pleased to mentor. “Whatever it is – watching film, out on the court, after practice, before practice. Just keeping that open dialogue, them asking me questions, on and off the court. It just goes to being together every day, me taking my experiences and trying to just tell them.”

In the 19 games Joseph logged with the Pistons after the March trade, the 12.0 points per game he averaged were a career best and so were his 5.5 assists and his .506 shooting percentage. He both started and came off the bench, played both on and off the ball. And he was there to help Hayes every step of the way when the rookie returned off a three-month injury absence. Any wonder why Casey knew exactly which veteran point guard he wanted to help push the Pistons through the next phase of their transition?

“He’s a team-first guy. Usually the older guys are trying to eat their own,” Casey said. “Trying to take all the minutes they can from those young guys. That’s not Cory. He wants to do what’s best for the Detroit Pistons.”

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