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."