When Jose Calderon rolled his ankle at full speed on Saturday night in Detroit, a lot of thoughts and scenarios simultaneously rolled through Raptors fans’ minds.
While no one (at least I hope not) wished ill will on Calderon or hoped for serious injury, many fans did wonder how a Calderon injury that kept him out of the lineup long term could affect the Raptors. Would it “help” the Raptors by way of making them worse in the short term and contributing to their slowly improving lottery hopes? Would it hinder any Calderon trade possibilities ahead of Thursday’s NBA deadline? Lastly, would it give Jerryd Bayless and even Gary Forbes the consistent minutes they have been searching for this season?
A Calderon trade doesn’t seem likely, according to Raptors-related writers and insiders, with just 48 hours until Thursday’s deadline. And many of those other questions will likely go unanswered, as recent reports suggest the Spaniard could be running the Raptors’ offence sooner than expected after the scary looking injury. Jose accompanied the team on their five-game road trip, and though he won’t play in the trip’s opener tonight in Cleveland, the Raptors’ PR twitter feed announced this morning that Jose had already shed the walking boot.
What we’re left with is the assumption that unless something drastic changes between now and Thursday, or unless Calderon suffers another injury, he will be playing the point and starting for Toronto until the end of the season. While I’ve consistently said that trading Calderon just for the sake of it without obtaining fair value is senseless, I’ll admit that his presence on the court takes away from a season of development for the aforementioned Bayless and Forbes.
Bayless finished last season (with Calderon sitting out) with an explosive final eight games, averaging 22.5 points on over 48 per cent shooting, including 41 per cent shooting from three-point range, while getting to the free throw line an impressive 58 times over the course of those eight games. While some pointed to the fact that the numbers came in a meaningless end of season stretch, it’s important to remember that Bayless put that stretch of games (which accounts for about 10 per cent of a regular season) together as a 22-year-old.
Unfortunately for Jerryd this season, injuries and Calderon’s strong play (10.5 points, 8.5 assists, 4.46 assist-to-turnover ratio) have limited him to just 21.7 minutes per game. Why this is particularly troubling for Raps fans is that Bayless has a qualifying offer worth over $4 million that the Raptors can offer him for next season, and you would have hoped that the now 23-year-old would either play his way into a long-term extension with the team or would be getting more of an opportunity on the court. Bayless has been inconsistent both this season and throughout his short NBA career, but he has also never been given much of a chance to prove himself long-term.
The ideal situation for the Raptors would be to keep Jerryd around next season and hope that he earns his extension then, but it might be just as ideal, both for “TankNation” and for Bayless’ development, if given Calderon’s latest injury, the team holds Jose out of some games down the stretch for “precautionary reasons,” also known as “rebuilding reasons.”
As for Forbes, head coach Dwane Casey admitted that the Raptors needed to get a good look at Gary (who was signed to a multi-year deal in the pre-season) when the team released veteran point guard Anthony Carter last week. Forbes, while as inconsistent as anyone in his short spurts this season, has shown some intriguing flashes while playing the point, a position that he’s not yet fully familiar with. A consistent spell with Calderon out of the lineup would have helped with that familiarity, and would have given Casey and his staff that sought after analysis of Forbes.
While I’ll reiterate again that I’m not suggesting fans should have hoped Jose would miss significant time and I still don’t believe trading him is an absolute must, I think it’s fair to say that Calderon being in the lineup to finish this season may leave fans, coaches and management with more questions than answers.