July 18, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Miami Heat guard Norris Cole (30) controls the ball during the game against the Golden State Warriors at the Thomas and Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Summer League: Cory Joseph takes the reigns

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Miami Heat (2-1) vs. San Antonio Spurs (2-1)
Time: 7 p.m. (Replay: 3 a.m. on NBA TV)
TV: Summer League Broadband
Venue: Cox Pavillion
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The San Antonio Spurs lost against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday; the Spurs’ last taste of defeat in Vegas occurred in 2009.

It should come as no surprise that the loss happened after Kawhi Leonard “retired” from Vegas. He was the primary catalyst for their success as he was noticeably ahead of the competition.

The void left from Leonard’s departure — they were tasked with replacing 25 points, six rebounds and three assists per game — was large enough to end the Spurs’ seven-game winning streak.

It should be noted that San Antonio is still a tough roster to handle. Cory Joseph, the other 2011 first-rounder, will attempt to duplicate Leonard’s role as leader. Joseph played nearly as well despite not having the same physical tools. He totaled a hearty 22-4-6 line in their six-point loss to the Clippers.

Tonight Spurs fans should be looking for the same thing. Joseph will hopefully take the reigns and embrace his new role. He’ll have help from James Anderson and others but, finally, we get a chance to focus on a guy deemed as a “bust” from the onset.

No pressure.

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Some Miami Heat players of note to watch tonight:

Norris Cole- While Cole didn’t necessarily play well this season — he posted a 7.9 PER coupled with a below-average shooting efficiency — Miami seems intent on developing him into a prototypical point guard that can occasionally create for himself. He’s not a reliable 3-point shooter though; a facet that Miami needs to create ample spacing for LeBron James. Cole has played well in Vegas regardless, averaging 13.7 points and five assists through three games. Both marks lead the team.

Dexter Pittman- Pittman hasn’t been a fixture of the Miami Heat as he’s only appeared in 37 games in two years. Pittman entered the league as a potent interior threat offensively but his startling weight issues deterred him for a late first-round selection — even though his offensive talent warranted that range. He’s apparently lost some weight since then and looks considerably more agile without compensating strength. Pittman has converted on 66.7% of his attempts while averaging 11 points and four rebounds in three games so far.

Jarvis Varnado- Varnado is an intriguing prospect; yes, he’s undrafted and lacks the requisite size, measuring 6’9″, but he compensates with an insatiable desire for the ball, both offensively and defensively. In his senior year (the first year advanced metrics were recorded), Varnado grabbed 17.2% of Mississippi State’s rebounds when he was on the floor. Most importantly, however, was his rim protection. He swatted a shot on 14.2% of their possessions, good for the fifth best mark at the collegiate level. Unfortunately that ability hasn’t translated to much as he hasn’t earned a minute in Vegas — much less in the NBA.

Player Pos. No.
J’Covan Brown G 4
Jason Clark G 24
Norris Cole G 30
Robert Dozier F 42
Trey Gilder F 26
Justin Hamilton C 44
Lamont Hamilton C 52
Dwight Hardy G 12
Terrel Harris G 14
John Holland G 25
Dexter Pittman C 45
Damian Saunders F 32
Adrian Thomas F 35
Jarvis Varnado F 43
Drew Viney F 54
Kyle Weaver G 20

Tags: 2012 Summer League Cory Joseph Dexter Pittman Jarvis Varnado Miami Heat Norris Cole San Antonio Spurs

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