January 27, 2008

Calderon Being Shown Some Love

Thrust into the starting role after point guard T.J. Ford went down to injury, Jose Calderon has been everything and more for the Toronto Raptors since. Calderon has been phenomenal this season, and the NBA is starting to take notice of numero ocho.

Not only has the Spaniard put up great numbers on the floor, he's also been a big hit in the world of fantasy basketball - another reason why he's being shown some love. I'm more of a fantasy hockey guy myself, but I know how serious people take their fantasy games. For owners of teams who picked up Calderon off the waiver wire, he's been nothing short of a God-send. Rotowire's got a blurb on Calderon over at Yahoo! Sports and they're mentioning our good old Jose in the same breath as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and, yes, Steve Nash.

Since taking over the starting point guard job for the injured Ford, Calderon has been averaging 13.4 points and 9.7 assists per game. Much has also been made about Calderon's incredible assist-to-turnover ratio: 5.54. He leads the league, by far. His nearest competition is Brevin Knight of the Clippers who sports a ratio of 4.28. Calderon simply gets all his teammates involved, and doesn't turn the rock over. He's racked up 371 assists this season, while only committing 67 turnovers. Money.

The man can shoot as well. Calderon's shot has improved by leaps and bounds since he came into the league back in 2005. In his rookie year, Calderon shot 42% from the field, only 16% from deep, and 85% from the free throw line. He didn't have much confidence in those days, and I never, ever, thought he would blossom into the Jose Calderon we are blessed with today.

His numbers this season are off the charts. A 51% shooting percentage from the field, 43% from beyond the arc, and 92% from the line. As the good folks at Rotowire were so sweet to point out, the only other cat to shoot 40/50/90 is - you guessed it - two-time MVP Steve Nash. Calderon is in some heavy company, and he deserves to be.

I figured a part of Jose's success was attributed to the fact that he was a starting point guard playing in a backup role against other team's second units, on a deep Raptors team. But Calderon has proved his worth as a starter, going up against the league's top point guards, and leading the Raptors to victory. He's the real deal and, astonishingly, only 26 years old.

T.J. Ford may not come back this season. This we know. If he does, he'll come back and play behind Calderon, as he's done before when he's been out of the lineup for an extended period of time. It's tough to argue with Calderon's success, and Ford is a team-player. He knows it's the right decision. If Ford doesn't return this year, the Raptors need to address their backup point guard situation. Darrick Martin, the quasi-coach, and Juan Dixon, are not getting the job done, and Jose is logging a ton of minutes.

Doug Smith at The Star writes in his blog that Mighty Mouse, Damon Stoudamire, is working on a buyout of his contract down in Memphis. Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Stoudamire will be waived by the Grizz on Monday and if he's not claimed in 48 hours he will be released and become a free agent. His potential destinations? Boston or Toronto. It would be tough to turn down the Celtics, especially with the season they are having, but I'd definitely be open to having Stoudamire return to Toronto, especially if Ford isn't coming back. Damon didn't leave Toronto on good terms but we're a welcoming folk, and we'd accept him back in Toronto with open arms, especially if it means Darrick Martin doesn't see any more floor time.

The best-case scenario would be the return of Ford, but who knows when he'll be ready to resume practicing with the team? Certainly I don't. Mighty Mouse, round two, is definitely an intriguing proposition.

The Raptors are on a roll, having won four out of their last five, and seven out of 10. They are starting to solidify themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the pathetic Eastern Conference, and are in a dog-fight with the Washington Wizards for the coveted fourth playoff spot, and home-court advantage. Jose Calderon deserves a boat-load of credit for the Raptors success. So, thank you Jose. You are appreciated.

I leave you, fellow Raptors fans, with some news I'm sure you'll enjoy as much as I did. Adrian Wojnarowski, a hoops columnist at Yahoo! Sports whom I frequently peruse, has picked his winners for some first-half awards, now that the NBA season has reached its halfway point. Vince Carter, that loathsome little turd who now plys his trade (read: complete indifference) over in New Jersey, was named the Least Valuable Player. Little things like that just make my day.

"Half-man, half-hearted," indeed. Even though it was one of the most one-sided trades ever, the Toronto Raptors won when they traded Vince Carter by simply getting rid of him. Addition by subtraction, my dear Watson.

Stupid question of the day: I wonder if the Nets are regretting that four-year, $62 million dollar dear they gave Carter last summer...?