‘He’s the quintessential point guard’ – Joseph showing the way for Pistons rookie point guards Hayes, Lee

Cory Joseph
Cory Joseph, who scored 24 points in Wednesday’s game at Dallas, has thrived since joining the Pistons and is a shining example of how to play point guard in Dwane Casey’s system for rookies Killian Hayes and Saben Lee
Glenn James (NBAE via Getty Images)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Cory Joseph’s best seasons of the 10 he’s spent in the NBA came in the two years he spent under Dwane Casey in Toronto. And that, he fully expects, bodes very well for the future of Killian Hayes – and, by extension, for the Pistons.

“One hundred percent,” Joseph said after scoring 24 points at Dallas. “Just his game in general. Point guards have to make a lot of decisions, read the game, get downhill, get the team going and make threes. Killian does a great job of that. Saben (Lee) does a great job of that. I definitely think it will be beneficial to them.”

Hayes sat out Wednesday’s 127-117 loss at Dallas, the first night of a back to back, continuing the practice the Pistons established of not playing the rookie on consecutive nights since his return from a hip injury that cost him three months and 41 games. He’s been a different player in the seven games he’s played since coming back earlier this month than he was in the first seven before his injury, looking much more comfortable and in command of the offense.

“I think he saw the game through a different lens,” Casey said before the Dallas game. “He could take a step back and take a deep breath.”

And, on Wednesday, he got to watch Joseph’s deft hands on the stick. Foul trouble to Jerami Grant that limited him to a combined three minutes in the middle two quarters after his 15 points in nine minutes had the Pistons off and running ultimately caught up to the Pistons, but Joseph ran Casey’s offense with a maestro’s touch, adding five assists and five rebounds to his 24 points.

“He’s been super,” Mason Plumlee said of Joseph, who arrived from Sacramento a month ago in a mid-season trade. “You can just tell, his basketball IQ is so high and that’s the one thing that allows you to go between teams and fit in right away. He had a big scoring night in the first half and there was nothing forced. It was all within the game. He’s going to get guys to their spots and get them open. He’s the quintessential point guard.”

The Pistons see in Hayes a visionary playmaker with unique size at the point guard position, but they loved his makeup every bit as much as the skill set. Casey anticipated Joseph, with his buoyant personality, helping Hayes find his comfort zone upon returning from injury.

“Since I’ve been coaching, he’s one of the best with his spirit each and every day,” Casey said. “He lights up the room with his energy, his purpose. His spirit is undeniable when he walks into the gym. He’s setting an example for our program going forward. We’re really excited to have him and he’s been a big lift for us.”

Joseph came into Wednesday’s game averaging 10.8 points and 5.6 assists on 48.6 percent shooting in 25 minutes a game with the Pistons, a considerable jump from the 6.6 points and 2.5 assists on 44.4 percent shooting in 21.5 minutes a game with the Kings. His ability to execute Casey’s offense gives Hayes and Lee, the other rookie point guard, a blueprint for how to thrive in a system that makes great use of point guards, often two or three at a time when the option is available to him.

“All they have to do is take a picture, look at it and watch him,” Casey said of the rookie point guards following Joseph’s lead. “He takes care of the ball, makes sure he goes to the right place and commands the game on both ends of the floor. He’s a good example for what you need to be.”

Joseph was coming off a bout with bronchitis and logged 36 minutes, so with Hayes likely back for Thursday’s game at San Antonio it’s a good bet Joseph will have a scaled-back role or perhaps a night off, getting to watch Hayes and Lee apply the lessons he’s been happy to provide.

“I think it’s definitely helpful,” Plumlee said of Joseph’s example for the rookies. “We just have a good group of older guys. If it’s Wayne (Ellington) with Saddiq (Bey) – I see those guys shooting after every practice. I know Saben and Killian are learning from Cory. It’s good to have that willingness from an older guy.”

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