Calderon’s role has changed

After Moon, he was my least favorite Raptor of last year. The hand-clapping shot-contests, the purposely made grimaces, his matador defense, the wry smile every time he was asked about his health and just about everything to do with him was flat-out annoying. Everything went wrong with him last year, even his English suffered. But now I’m willing to look past that year of his and start a new page in our relationship, a page which is written in full health and with a year’s worth of experience of handling starting point-guard duties (albeit of bad ones). Nobody on the roster will have to alter their game as much as Calderon since the signings of the summer have impacted his role the most.

The addition of Hedo Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack will result in three major things: 1) Calderon will no longer be the sole initiator of the offense (oh noooo…) , 2) He will be asked to play in a spot-up role and 3) His minutes will go down to something he’s comfortable with. All three changes are to his benefit since he’ll be under less pressure to run the offense, will play to his spot-up shooting strength and the lower minutes will help him keep fresh, something he obviously needs help with. Although he did show some physical resilience in the middle part of 2007-08, we should remember that even that year he didn’t play the full season as a starter and tailed off down the stretch and in the playoffs. He’s yet to show that he can handle 35 minutes a night and it’s better we don’t even ask it of him.

Turkoglu’s decision-making with the ball and his ability to finish going towards the basket is now being seen as the solution to our offense which got stuck in a rut every time we needed a score. We’re putting a lot of faith in him being the key which unlocks the mystery of how this offense should work and it only adds up on paper if Calderon is a consistent productive member of the five-man unit on both ends of the floor. So far the times when he’s been asked to play the off the ball he hasn’t fared well. I remember many fans calling for a Ford-Calderon backcourt a year ago and when Mitchell finally did experiment with Ford at the point and Calderon off the ball, the latter was lost in the mix. His strength of finding open shooters on the perimeter was taken away from him and his outside stroke wasn’t utilized nearly as much as we had hoped.

He basically needs to be like Jameer Nelson – move along the three-point line and make the angle for the pass from the interior easier and then hit the three. Or make them pay at the end of the swing sequence. If the defense is late reaching out to you, use the pump-fake and the step-in dribble to open things up. He’s got to adopt more of a scorer’s mentality than before, don’t always be looking to pass to lesser options on the outside when you can force something inside or take it in on your own. We’re no longer strictly paying him for his AST/TO ratio, those days are over and they never really worked, it’s time for him to re-invent himself as a scoring threat at the point and as a dependable spot-up option. With Jason Kapono gone we’re going to need somebody to spread the floor and there’s nobody more suited to do that than Calderon. He was only behind Tony Parker, Rajan Rondo (because of the drives), Steve Nash and Chris Paul when it came to FG percentage amongst PGs, he also had a TS% of .588 which is exceptional for a guard, so the shooting ability is definitely there.

I don’t think anybody’s expecting heavy screen-usage and baseline to high-post “shows” by Calderon like Anthony Parker used to, mainly because he’s too small to make something of those opportunities and more importantly, he’s never played that way. Defensively, I’d settle for him not getting picked-off so easily. Once he/Triano figure out a way to avoid that, we can move on to more complex defensive strategies but for now, just fight through the bloody screen.

I had three main gripes with how he handled the offense: 1) He didn’t turn the corner on the screen enough, 2) He looked for Bosh more than others, 3) He didn’t push after defensive rebounds even though there were options. The last one was particularly frustrating towards the end of the season. #2 has as much to do with coach’s instructions and Bosh’s movement and position being wrong than Calderon looking for him too much. Still, Calderon must share the blame for not finding a way to make the offense click once the two-man game was neutralized. Adding Hedo into the mix doesn’t mean he’s not going to be responsible for that, it just means he won’t have to do it as much and hopefully it’ll come down to a dose he can handle. If past performance is indicative of anything, I’d say it’s a 50-50 chance that he gets it right. The only explanation I can find for #1 is his injury which has been use as a cover-all excuse for all things miserable about Calderon and we can only hope that he goes back to playing like he did in January and February of ’08 (kinda pathetic that his acceptable play as a starter only spans two months). So there’s no point in me pointing out how bad he was last year because the response to that would be Hammy!


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