Tio!

by January 14, 2008
5

By Jake Appleman

Instead of just taking notes on the Raptors-Knicks game on Friday night, I decided to watch just one player. This was an exercise my dad tried to teach me when I went to my first Knicks game in 1993 (9 years old), suggesting I focus simply on Rolando Blackmon. I was too young at the time to appreciate it, choosing instead to marvel at the mediocrity of a Lee Mayberry/Todd Day backcourt and the bricks hoisted by the aptly named Frank Brickowski. Eventually, though, I took the lesson to heart.

On Friday night, I chose my main man Jose “Ho-ratio” Calderon. Simply put, I love watching El Ocho play ball. If I didn’t love Calderon’s game, I wouldn’t have tabbed him to run point for the All Apples team.

I wrote down everything Calderon did of consequence on Friday night. Instead of running it blow by blow, I’m running it summary bullet point style. Without further adieu, my scouting report:

Calderon boasts Bill Raftery licensed blow-by ability: His first step to the rim is sharp, direct and, often due to a change of pace, faster than expected.

He will not force anything unnecessarily: This is kind of obvious because of his obscene 6:1 assist to turnover ratio, but it’s still worth discussing. Calderon plays within himself. This is important because he’s staying true to his game. Some point guards, Kidd and Nash being the foremost examples, can use their complex wizardry to force their respective wills on the game. Calderon best helps his team win by doing the exact opposite: always doing the right thing and minimizing high risks. This is risk management at its finest. If only George Costanza had Jose Calderon for that presentation…

He sees everything: Whether he’s moving fast or slow, Calderon always has his head up. Not all point guards are adept at consistently keeping their options open like this. Like Chris Paul, Calderon has many gears and he accesses them without immediately giving away his change in speeds. If point guards were cars, Calderon would be a stick shift, and more predictable point guards the easier-to-gauge automatics that specialize in lazy driving. Calderon’s ability to calmly survey his options, especially late in the shot clock, prevents defenders from being able to tell what he’s going to do next. This is part and parcel of his ability to catch defenders flat-footed; his deceptiveness works in tandem with his quickness when he beats his man to the rim.

–Even his misses are good shots: Calderon missed most of his jumpers on Friday night, but they were all either in rhythm or open shots. He’s shooting 51% (!) from the floor for a reason.

He makes sure the floor is balanced: Part of the reason Chris Bosh burned the Knicks for 40 was that Calderon and his teammates usually made sure to space themselves when Bosh got the ball down low. Under Calderon’s floor-leadership, the Raptors played inside out and made the Knicks pick their poison. The Knicks chose not to completely sag off Toronto’s shooters and clog the lane; the result was the space that gave Bosh the cart blanche to eat NY’s bigs like hot dogs at the Gray’s Papaya Recession special: easily and often.

–He works the pick and roll like a pro: His use of the space created by a high screen set on his man is, at its best, dare I say, Stocktonian.

–He takes advantages of quick hitters: Nothing says conscientious point guard quite like rushing up the floor hit to find your shooters open in triple threat position at their favorite spots on the floor. Amazingly, this actually had a negative effect on Calderon’s assist total. Because he and his shooters were able to catch the Knicks guards flat-footed thanks to porous transition D, more than a few times Jason Kapono and Anthony Parker utilized up fakes and quick dribbles to get themselves even more open, increasing their shot-making chances in the process. These 3 or 4 instances negated potential Calderon assists. (This could lead to a very lengthy discourse about what should and what shouldn’t be counted as an assist, but we won’t get into that today.)

–He’s an inconsistent, occasionally lazy defender: Calderon routinely bit on up fakes—Nate Robinson twice sent him flying through the air—and gets beat to the rim too consistently. Against Robinson, he seemed to make a decision to not pay much attention to Nate, instead deciding to let Nate’s recklessness inflict its own damage on the Knicks. Fair enough, but this led to a laziness that burned him badly late in the first quarter when he bit on a Robinson up fake and then, after Nate passed the ball out, decided not to recover back to his man. The pass went back to Nate, who scored.

–He’s a good teammate and a natural leader: A natural born communicator, Calderon is good at exhorting his mates and proficient in the art of positive body language, not to mention his mastery of the elevated hand slap. He’s like the anti-Starbury.

Bottome line: He makes my Eastern Conference All-Star team. (LeBron, KG, D-Ho, Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups. Bench: Ray Allen, Calderon, Caron Butler, Chris Bosh, Rip Hamilton, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson; omitted but not forgotten: J-Kidd, VC, Antawn Jamison, Hedo Turkoglu, Michael Redd)

If you’re not yet convinced, consider the following: When I asked him whether or not he was thinking about New Orleans, his response was classic.

“New Orleans?” He asked incredulously. “Why would I be thinking about New Orleans?”

His response indicated that either he had no idea where the 2008 ASG is being played or, at the very least, it was out of sight and out of mind. This illustrated something of greater importance: one way or another, he could care less.

Yeah, that’s right, I said it, David Stern: Jose Calderon is above your revenue and popularity driven exhibitions. In fact, he shits in the milk (Cagarse en la leche, Spanish phrase) that lactates out of your cris-popping, party-hardy-ing, Jason Whitlock-scaring, mid-season money teat.

Now say uncle! Say it!

Tío!

Translating literally, tio means “uncle”, but it also roughly translates to the Spanish equivalent of Frank Lucas greeting somebody he appreciates with an enthusiastic, “My man!” And if you’re a fan of clean, crisp, fundamentally-sound basketball, that’s exactly what Jose Calderon should be: your man.