Jose Calderon and His Sisyphean Point Guard Battle

9 mins read
The Italian Stallion, meet El Semental Espanol.


The Toronto Raptors’ front office keeps lining ’em up, and Jose Calderon keeps knocking ’em down.

Possibly drawing inspiration from heros of the past, Jose Calderon has survived splitting time with six different point guards, three of whom were supposed to be the “future” at the position for the franchise.

Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago….T.J. Ford, Jarrett Jack, Jerryd Bayless. (And sure, Roko Ukic/Will Solomon can combine to be Tommy Gunn from Rocky V.)

And now we have Kyle Lowry, who is, of course, Mason Dixon from Rocky Balboa, the franchise’s sixth installment. In the movie, Dixon is the reigning champion staging an exhibition with Balboa to improve his public perception and to combat the idea that a computer simulation posited that Balboa, in his heyday, would have beaten Dixon. Balboa is not at all expected to compete with the much younger champion in the three-round exhibition, but when Dixon breaks his hand early in the fight, Rocky is able to hang tough enough to last three rounds and lose a split decision, a shockingly favorable outcome given the age gap.

The outcome with Calderon and Lowry appears to be just as clear as it was for Dixon and Balboa, separated by over two decades in age. Lowry and Jose, instead, are separated by Jose’s expiring contract, the asset surrendered for Lowry, and, of course, Jose’s advanced age (31 when the season starts).

But maybe we shouldn’t be so sure. Like with Dixon’s broken hand, strange things can happen in fights and point guard competitions. After all, Jose was expected to see his role swallowed by Ford, Jack, and Bayless, too, but remains the lone player standing from the pre-Colangelo era. Colangelo dealt Charlie Villaneuva for Ford to be the “PG of the Future and CB4 BFF,” only to turn around two seasons later and package him with Roy Hibbert for Jermaine O’Neal. Colangelo gave Jose the reigns in 2008-09 and he performed well, but the team appeared to have a point guard problem due to the atrocious back-up performances of Solomon and Ukic. So Colangelo signed Jarrett Jack to be the “PG of the Future and CB4 BFF.” Jack lasted just over a year, and in late 2010 was dealt as part of a multi-player trade that returned Jerryd Bayless. The “Bosh BFF” part was no longer a part of the job description, but Bayless was penciled in as at least a possible heir to the point guard throne. And here we are, two years later, with Lowry now anointed the point guard of the present and future.

And if you’ll recall, I love Lowry. I trumpeted this trade as a huge win for the team, and stand by that. Lowry’s defense is superior, he’s a more natural scorer, and his skill as a distributor could and should see improvement with a team more suited to the pick and roll game than the Rockets were. He’s not perfect, but he’s young, hungry, and talented.

But you may also recall that I love Jose…in fact, my dog is named Jose, a namesake honor co-held by Joses Bautista and Calderon. Calderon has been one of my favorite Raptors since Day 1, and I love that he’s the longest tenured Raptor and nearing in on some franchise records:

*Games played – currently 3rd, 64 games shy of 1st
*Minutes played – 4th, but he’s about 2-3 seasons shy of 1st
*Points – 5th, about two seasons shy of 3rd
*Assists – 1st by a long shot
*Steals – 5th, roughly a season and a half from 2nd
*3FG – 5th, less than a season from 4th
*FT% – 1st

These are somewhat meaningless, sure, but for a franchise devoid of long-tenured players not named Mo-Pete, it’s nice to have a guy to call our own. Calderon’s never been an elite scorer, but his passing and efficiency has been nearly unmatched in franchise history. I’m not at all saying that Jose deserves to keep making his $10M into the future because of seniority and years of appreciable service, but I am certainly in the camp that we should hang on to him to be PG2 for the year.

Alas, apparently Jose is upset with the Lowry acquisition, and you can’t blame him. Looking at the chart at the bottom of this article, it’s clear that Colangelo has never had faith in his ability to be a long-term stop-gap at the position, but has rather viewed him as a high-end back-up or mid-level starter. Lowry is, by most metrics, a top-10 or -12 point guard in the league, and Jose’s defense doesn’t allow him to reach that level.

Still, we’ve been here before, and you have to appreciate the fact that Jose has withstood it all and rarely complained. Now, there is some disagreement in the comments of prior pieces about this, but I’m of the mind that Jose has been a good soldier throughout the years. Imagine, regardless of pay scale, that your employer continually brought in people trumpeted to replace you, tried to trade/transfer you, constantly rebuilt the company’s image and changed directives, and think how upset you would be. Jose has never demanded a trade, and despite occasionally poor facial expressions (I actually think this is just the competitor in him expressing a desire to play, not the expressions of a malcontent), rarely says anything negative in the media. Remember, too, that it was Colangelo himself who recently disclosed Jose’s disppleasure, NOT Jose.

So what am I saying? Nothing, really. But while we wait for the Knicks to possibly match the Landry Fields offer sheet (maybe I should have written about the implications of that?), I think we should take a look at the current free agent crop and the current roster and appreciate that Jose should not get amnestied. The savings wouldn’t free up cap space significant enough to make a huge splash, and Jose has a great deal of value as a top-tier back-up, a steady fill-in in the event of injury, and as a large expiring contracts for potential trades later in the year. If he’s dealt, fine, because we’re bringing back talent, and I can put aside personal feelings about a player to improve the team. But no amnesty.

Jose has been good to us. I’m sure if we were to put him on trial publically as a point guard, his defense would be of the Gladiator variety, “Are you not entertained?!!” as he continues to slay point guard platoon-mates left and right. Lowry is now the point guard of the present and future, and I doubt this chart below will be too interesting in the next year or two.

But as Jose may warn us…“Yo Lowry…I didn’t hear no bell!”

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