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."

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

CLEVELAND – For about 30 or so seconds following Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland, Al Horford was not Al Horford.

He’s a passionate player, but seldom is it on display in as outwardly a fashion as it was following their Game 3 victory.

In an interview with CSN’s Abby Chin after the game, Horford tried to put into words what the victory meant.

But the aggressive high-fives to teammates passing him by, the intense way he looked into the camera … that spoke volumes about what this game meant to the veteran big man.

“It’s big, it’s big!” Horford said in between high-fives with Jonas Jerebko and other Celtics who came past him.

“A lot of people doubting us out there!” Horford said, staring intently into the camera as if he was saying, ‘yeah, I’m talking about you!’”

Less than 24 hours after the game, Horford’s emotions had cooled down considerably.

“It was an emotional game,” he told CSN following a short practice at the Q Arena on Monday. “Just, having to hear … since the blowout, everybody counting us out. Everybody really believing that it was over.”

The Celtics came into Game 3 having lost both Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 57 points which includes the worst playoff loss (Game 2, 130-86) in franchise history.

So with that as the backdrop, knowing full well that no one outside of their locker room gave them an ice cube in hell’s chance at winning Game 3, the victory brought about a level of satisfaction that Celtics players had seldom experienced before if at all.

“The emotions at that time were high for our group,” Horford admitted. “And it shows what we’ve been talking about all year, a resilient group that has a lot of fight in them. We were hit with some adversity with Isaiah being down but our group responded.”

Thomas re-aggravated a right hip injury in Game 2, and was later ruled out for the rest of the playoffs. 

After falling behind 77-56 in the third quarter, the Celtics closed out the third with a 26-10 run to come within 87-82 going into the fourth quarter. During the run, Marcus Smart had 11 points which turned out to be equal to LeBron James’ scoring output … for the entire game.

This is Horford's 10th NBA season, all of which have included a trip to the postseason.

That, combined with having won a pair of national championships when he played at the University of Florida, serves as a reminder that the 30-year-old has been on the winning ledger of big games before.

But even he acknowledged Sunday’s Game 3 win was … different.

“I have had plenty of moments like this,” Horford said. “But this was definitely emotional. This was very emotional, exciting, on the road, no one really giving us any chance. To be able to come through like that, it just felt great. I’ve been part of emotional wins, but this one was a special one.”

That was evident in Horford’s energy-charged, post-game comments.

“Heart! Heart! This team got heart!” he yelled. “We got beat bad (in Game 2), but it’s all about how you rebound!”

And we get that message, loud and clear!

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.

Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.

“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah.  He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”

He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.

Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.

“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”

Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.

And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.

Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.

“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”

Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.

“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”