What you didn't get to know about Joseph and Varnado


What you didn't get to know about Joseph and Varnado

The Boston Celtics waived Kris Joseph and Jarvis Varnado on Sunday, ending the rookies' time with the C's shortly after it began.

Joseph, selected by the Celtics with the 51st overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, spent the majority of the season with the NBA Development League's Maine Red Claws. He appeared in six games for the Celtics. Varnado signed with the Celtics in late December after playing for the D-League's Sioux Fall Skyforce. He got on the court in five games for the C's.

Like all athletes, Joseph and Varnado came to Boston with backstories that shaped their careers to this point. Both rookies grew up with discipline and tough love that they didn't always understand, but realize now how much it helped pave their roads to the NBA.

Kris Joseph was raised in Montreal, Canada, but the strongest influences in his life were tied back to Trinidad. His parents grew up there and brought many of their traditions with them to Canada over 30 years ago.

Joseph, the youngest of three siblings, lived under a watchful eye in the neighborhood of Cte-des-Neiges. Family activities, such as board games and movie nights, were popular in in his home. Joseph's mother was more comfortable having her son close by instead of in the streets.

"My neighborhood is a lot better now, but there was violence, there were drugs right around the corner," said Joseph. "My mom didn't want us to go outside because we definitely didn't live in the suburbs, we didn't live in a house. It's not one of better places to live. There's a few places, and that's one of them, that a lot of people don't enjoy going to because of the tradition of violence. Basketball kept me out of the street. I've seen people stabbed, I've seen drugs, I've seen a lot of things growing up in Montreal. But you've got a decision to make when you're growing up, and I think it starts at home. Without my mom and my sisters and my brother really guiding me through my path, it's easy to fall into the streets."

Joseph's childhood wasn't filled with sleepovers and after school hangouts like some of his other classmates. He wasn't allowed to leave the table until his homework was finished, a rule also enforced by his siblings when his mother was at work.

"Theres really zero tolerance," Joseph said. "Growing up, you had to be really straight, which ended up helping us. When youre a kid, you dont always understand that. Like, 'Man, why doesnt my mom want me going out after school?' I have to come right home, do my homework. It was kind of like a routine. You go to school the next day and your friends are telling you all the stories about sleepovers and stuff like that, but I wasnt really allowed to do those things until a certain age. Even when I was, my mom had to talk to their mom and it was a really big thing."

There was one activity Joseph allowed to break the school-to-home routine for -- basketball. Joseph's older brother, Maurice, was a standout hoops player and took his little sibling with him to the gym. As Joseph developed a love for the game, he began to envision his future. It had nothing to do with distractions or bad decisions.

"I grew up with friends that were victims of the street, good friends that I played basketball with," he said. "It was easy when they're doing things for me to say no because I always knew what I wanted. They were kind of confused. They weren't sure how their life was going to turn out. I always had this image in my mind that I would end up at this level one day. Every kid that grows up playing basketball says, 'I want to make it to the NBA.' Some people just say it to say it, and some people mean it. I meant it and I thought if I do everything right, if I make the right steps, stay out of trouble, that it could be very possible for me."

Joseph left Montreal as a teenager to play high school basketball in Washington, D.C., which led to four seasons at Syracuse University. While he may have missed out on some of the social activities his friends experienced growing up, after being drafted by the Celtics and making it to the NBA, he didn't really miss much at all.

"With me being the baby of the four, my mother was trying to make sure I was as safe as possible," said Joseph. "And I love her for it."

The noise of 25 laughs filled the Kinnon home for Sunday dinner.

Jarvis Varnado and his relatives gathered at his maternal grandparent's home in Brownsville, Tennessee each week for hours of fun and family.

"We never missed a Sunday," Varnado remembered. "Just a big family. Everybody loved on each other."

Louise and Jesse Kinnon were the pillars of Varnado's family. They were also two of the biggest inspirations in his life.

"My grandmother and grandfather, they loved me. They loved me," Varnado said. "They were tough. They were hard. It was family first."

Varnado grew up minutes away from his relatives, which allowed for plenty of family visits with both leisure and discipline. His grandparents helped teach him right from wrong and respect for others, a life lesson he took with him playing for a veteran team.

"My grandfather was tough on me," Varnado said. "Every time I would go over there, he would make me do chores. I didn't want to, but it grew me up and it made me stronger. He made me take out the garbage so many times. I used to hate it because I would have to literally walk down the street to put the garbage in the dumpster. It was raining outside, he still made me do it. Cold, snowing, still made me doing it. I really learned a lot from him."

Varnado also remembers spending hours watching wrestling on television with his grandmother. They both were fans of the action-packed matches, although nothing compared to the excitement Varnado heard in his grandmother's voice when she saw him play in a televised Mississippi State basketball game.

"When I got to college and started playing on TV, she would call me excited, 'I saw you playing on TV!'" Varnado said. "That really built me up because my freshman year, I didn't play that much. But the fact that I played a little bit and she got to see me play, that was real special."

Varnado's grandparents both passed away in 2010 during his senior year of college. The big man didn't get to share the experience of being drafted that year by the Miami Heat, making it on his own overseas in Italy, returning to South Dakota to play in the D-League, and finding his way back to the NBA this season with the Boston Celtics. But two years later, he still thinks of them as he continues to pursue his basketball career.

"It was tough, but I just thought about the good moments we had," Varnado said. "I take them with me all the time, all the time, all the time. When I'm back home, sitting around during the holidays, we still talk about what they used to do. I talk about them all the time."

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

BOSTON - It would appear things can’t continue the way they are for the Bruins' power play. 

After a disastrous first period helped dig them a hole in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, there was some pretty serious soul-searching going with a man-advantage that has been both toothless and mistake-prone on far too many nights. 

In the Colorado loss a couple of early power-play possessions, one that was completely ineffectual with zero meaningful possession or shots on net and then a second that turned into a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal, dropped the B’s into a hole they couldn’t climb out of. The shorthanded sequence was particularly damning with a desperate Torey Krug diving to keep a puck in the offensive zone, and then watching helpless as MacKinnon beat him to the loose puck and then took off down the ice behind the last line of B’s defense. 

Krug placed the blame on himself for the high-risk play at the offensive blue line, but it’s hard to wholly blame somebody that was using hustle to try and make something happen offensively. 

“I thought they were tired, and if I could keep it in then we keep them hemmed in and get them running around. At the end of the day, it’s a 50-50 play, but maybe early in my career, I learn that now and probably won’t do it anymore. Sometimes you’ve got to go through those things to learn,” said Krug. “It’s just one of those plays I thought instinctively I could get there and keep him hemmed in, and you could even tell when he went in on the breakaway that he was tired.

So, if I keep that in and we keep them hemmed in, hopefully we get a couple chances. But we’ve got to be better, some of our better players on our team, and we’ve got to take the onus on ourselves to start capitalizing on opportunities and changing the game for our team.”

Nobody is going to reasonably suggest that a dangerous power-play guy like Krug be removed from the special-teams unit, but clearly something needs to change. The Bruins are tied for 25th in the NHL on the power play with a 14.1 percent success rate, and they can’t blame lack of opportunities because they’re middle of the road when it comes to power-play chances this season. 

Only the Flyers, Stars and Blackhawks have allowed more shorthanded goals than the Bruins (four) in 28 games played as well, so the Black and Gold essentially aren’t playing good defense or offense on the power play this year. Krug saie that it’s a mindset thing and that the Bruins need to get back to the confident, energetic way they attacked penalty kills last season. 

“We want to make plays, we want to help our team. It’s not like we’re out there not trying to make plays or anything, but we just have to be better,” said Krug. “We’ve got to have better focus, crisper passes, making quick plays to the net and making things happen. I feel like right now we might just be standing there, [just kind of] static, just hoping that things are going to happen and we’re not making them happen. 

“So, we’ve got to change our mindset, and like I said, those guys on that unit are the guys that will go to work and make sure we’re better next time for our team.”

But it goes beyond simple approach. The Bruins lost their second-leading PP goal-scorer last season when Loui Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Other top unit PP performers like David Krejci,  Krug and Ryan Spooner haven’t been as good this season. Still, perhaps the biggest reason is the all-around offensive disappearance of Patrice Bergeron, who had 12 goals and 13 assists on the PP last season for a team-best 25 power-play points. This season, Bergeron has one goal and two points on the PP in 25 games and has been neutralized by opposing penalty kills from his “bumper” position roving up and down the slot. 

The Bruins are determined to ride things out with Bergeron both five-on-five and on the PP, and rightfully so, given his quality, productive body of work with the Bruins. He’s Boston’s best player and you don’t ever go away from those guys. 

But Bergeron has been ordinary for the Bruins on the PP after being extraordinary last season, and not much is going to change with the B’s man advantage unless No. 37 begins to find the range, confidence and short-term quick burst that’s needed for the B’s power play to flow through him like a well-oiled scoring machine. A greater impact by David Backes on the net-front power play could help and an uptick in PP production from Krug, Krejci and Spooner would obviously be welcome for the Black and Gold. 

But the Bruins power play is designed to play off Bergeron’s many qualities and strengths when he’s at his best, and a big part of the B’s troubles and Bergeron’s troubles are linked together because No. 37 has been less than his best in a season that’s been challenging for him from the very beginning. 

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

FOXBORO -- What could have been an awkward plane ride for Tom Brady and John Harbaugh was made less so thanks to a high school lacrosse player. 

Brady and Harbaugh shared a private plane back from Michigan where Jim Harbaugh and his University of Michigan program put on an event for National Signing Day. About a year earlier, Brady told a room full of reporters that Harbaugh and his coaching staff should study the rule book and "figure it out" after hearing that they were pretty upset about the unusual formations the Patriots ran during their AFC Divisional Round win over Baltimore. 

They may not have been on the best of terms.

"I was pissed off," he told ESPN's Ian O'Connor before the start of this season. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed. ... So yeah, that should never have been said."

But on the flight was Harbaugh's daughter Alison, a high school lacrosse player. When Brady took some time to share a few thoughts on competitiveness with her, he and Harbaugh found common ground.

"We had a lot of fun," Harbaugh said of the flight. "I don't know if he's talked about that at all, but we ended up sharing a plane ride along with my daughter and a couple of his people, friends of his. We just had a chance to just talk for a couple hours. And really more than anything, Alison got a chance to listen to Tom Brady talk about competing and what it takes to be great at what you do.

"And one of the funny things about it was, he was so nice to her. He gets off and they go, and we get back on the plane and we're talking, and she says something like, 'Boy, Tom really is a nice guy.' And I look at here and go, 'Tom?' I'm thinking 'Mr. Brady' would have been more appropriate. She said, 'He said to call me Tom.' I got a kick out of that.

"It was good. Lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he's accomplished. He's very tough to compete against. The best quarterback that's played, certainly in this era, without question in my mind. That's how I would rank him. And it's just another tough challenge to have to play against him."