Changing The Point: Toronto Thrives with Calderon and Ford
The Raps were graced last season having two legitimate point guards running the show and taking them into the playoffs. Jose 'The Spanish Fly' Calderon was already in Toronto when newly appointed GM Bryan Colangelo traded Charlie Villenueva for TJ Ford. Expecting an easy transition, everyone in Toronto expected Ford to start the entire season; everyone except Jose Calderon of course.
Calderon had gone back to his native Spain in the off-season to work on his game, playing with the national team. Who knew he would come back a completely different player. In the 2006-2007 season Calderon was a man on a mission looking to become a legitimate starter in the league. He developed Steve Nash-esque moves like quick one step lay-ups from the left side keeping the defender on his hip. He became a leader on the floor, constantly talking to his fellow players, calling plays, restarting the offense when needed and playing pretty solid defense. The one down side to his game was his shooting from beyond 15 feet.
Sharing time with TJ they pretty much equally split the minutes, yet when TJ went down with an injury for a couple games, Jose took the reigns. Now, most fans very rarely notice coaching strategy but Sam Mitchell's method to the point situation was and still is ingenius. Many of you may think that TJ Ford was last year and still is the number 1 guard because he starts the game. Well, my readers let me enlighten you to a little secret. Sam Mitchell starts TJ, then brings Calderon in at around the 3 minute mark of the first quarter. He will leave Calderon in till about the 5-6 minute mark of the second quarter when he brings TJ back. TJ will start the 3rd but will come out earlier, around the 6 minute mark. Jose will likely play to the end of the quarter where TJ will start the fourth, only to be relieved by Jose at the 5 minute mark. Get it?
What I'm trying to display by my avid abilities to breakdown coaching strategies (as I so coherently did) is that Mitchell wants Jose to end the games for the team. He wants a true leader to run the point, especially when games are tough. Now, of course this can backfire, i.e. Jose's crappy pass to a wide open Chris Bosh in game six of the playoffs. But I think Mitchell and the entire league has recognized Calderon's leadership abilities and steadily improving play.
The league certainly took notice as trade rumours swirled around Toronto in the offseason with Jose at the centre of it. I don't think any legitimate offer was made, something like a draft pick or two at most, but with the dazzling duo running the point for the Raps it's only natural to have those rumours around.
Competition at the position has made Calderon work harder and play smarter and in that respect he has out-shined TJ and become a marked man in the association. Mark my words readers, in three years time Jose (barring any injury of course) will be an all-star. Whether he's wearing a Raptors jersey or not will be the question.
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