Jose’s Spanish Conquest

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No, Mr. Calderon. Thumbs up TO YOU

Cue the “Jose, Jose Jose Jose, Joseeeeee, Joseeeeeeeeeee” chants, as the Spanish point guard who captured Toronto’s hearts a few years ago appears to be back.

You know I’ve never been a big fan of “numero ocho,” so this post coming from me tells you something about how impressive Calderon has been of late.

Before I delve deeper into Calderon’s improvement though, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane.

After being rewarded with a five-year contract worth about $8 million per year in the summer of 2008, Jose Calderon’s game went into a remarkably quick decline over a period of two years. During that time, the Spaniard was plagued by hamstring injuries and other nagging ailments, which Calderon supporters believed were the true root of his demise.

I was a little more skeptical, seeing Jose as another pro athlete who flopped after receiving a big-money contract. To me, the only difference between a guy like Calderon and a guy like Hedo Turkoglu was that Jose knew how and when to say the right things, while Hedo clearly did not (unless he was bargaining for some Pizza!).

Calderon went from a lovable underdog to an over-rated, over-paid, soft player in the blink of an eye. Not to mention, he often, if not always, looked like the worst defensive player in the NBA, at least the worst defensive point guard.

Calderon himself, and his dwindling supporters, swore he was at least a decent defender, but that his lateral movement was limited by those previously mentioned injuries.

Most weren’t buying it, so when reports surfaced that Bryan Colangelo was about to fleece Michael Jordan and the Bobcats to rid Toronto of Calderon’s lengthy contract, the closest thing to a championship parade Toronto has seen since 1993 nearly erupted. You know the rest, Jordan and his questionable mustache pulled the deal off the table.

Based on the way the pre-season was going, Jarrett Jack looked like a point guard ready to lead a young Raptors squad, while Jose Calderon lost confidence by the minute, and his jump-shot, the only thing he still had going for him, had finally failed him.

We all assumed Calderon was now officially “un-movable”, and he would wallow behind the superior Jack for the rest of his days.

And then it happened.

Jarrett Jack was traded to New Orleans in a deal that may have brought Toronto its point guard of the future in Jerryd Bayless. Jose Calderon, who was quietly and surprisingly out-playing Jack in the early portion of the regular season, now had the reins to the Raptors offence and the important role of mentoring the 22-year-old Bayless.

How has he fared? Well, I’m writing a blog about his recent success, so I’d say pretty damn well.

Since Jay Z assures us that unlike men and women, numbers don’t lie, let’s look at the numbers. Because, what the numbers tell us is that Jose Calderon is playing like one of the better point guards in the NBA right now.

Forget his scoring; Jose is never and should never become a scoring guard like Derrick Rose. He is not suited to such a role. (Having said that, it should be noted that Calderon’s shot is slowly returning to form, and he may, once again, be able to make opposing teams respect his deadly trigger)

Let’s take a look at how Calderon is running a young Raptors offence. Given the fact that Jose is only averaging 24.6 minutes per game right now, we’ll have to look at averages per 48 minutes to accurately compare him to the game’s elite lead-guards.

Calderon is currently fifth in the NBA in assists per 48 minutes (12.7), third in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.13) and ranks seventh among NBA point guards in three-point shooting (41.2%). All this while leading a Raptors attack that is tied with the Heat for second in the East in points per game (101.3).

The real surprise though, when looking at Jose’s stats, is that he ranks 15th among point guards in steals (11th per-48 minutes) with 1.3 per game. Simply put, the guy most of us have referred to as a pylon on numerous occasions, the guy most of us have referred to as the worst defensive player in the NBA, is playing some decent defence right now, if not solid defence.

I suppose after that 715-word rant, the question becomes, can Calderon sustain this level of play for an entire season? Can he even stay healthy for an entire season? Also, can the Raptors continue to surprise the critics and legitimately push for a playoff spot, maybe even get in?

The two answers may be tied hand in hand. If Calderon continues to play with the poise we have seen lately and stays healthy, the Raptors recent success may become a surprising 82-game season, not just a surprising 19-game sample.

No one can honestly answer these questions and therefore tell the future.

But there is one thing I can guarantee. If Calderon and the Raptors can get it done, all of the “Calderon-haters,” as we have often been called, will be eating our words.

And I promise you, they will taste delicious.