There are few players that I've enjoyed watching more than Jose Manuel Calderon.
He's not flashy, but he's passionate.
He doesn't have a "little man complex", but often plays with the best efficiency on the court.
He's not always well loved, but he's survived multiple attempts to dislodge him from our starting lineup.
More importantly, when you look at a lot of his bare stats, he's been one of the most consistent contributors to the Raptors.
In August of 2005, Rob Babcock convinced the enigmatic point guard to sign with the Toronto Raptors. Back in those days, Alvin Williams was all but gone, and the Raptors even had Andre Barrett on their team. Jose would show flashes, but would end up fighting Plantar Faciitis for his first few years, severely limiting his footwork and efficiency. However, he was a pass-first point guard the likes of which we haven't had in ages.
In 2006-2007, the Raptors brought in T.J. Ford, but Jose Calderon would also come into his own. By the end of the year, Jose would emerge as a stronger candidate compared to T.J. Ford. A year later, with T.J. Ford battling his neck injuries, Jose Calderon would come into the forefront posting what would be his trademark numbers; 50% shooting from the field, 40% shooting from the 3 point line, and 90% shooting from the free throw line, along with his 5.4:1 assist to turnover ratio. Of course, he did not make the 50-40-90 club due to the fact that he was short by 16 free throws that year.
However, the next year, he assured himself a position in the NBA history books.
Making 87 free throws in a row good enough for second consecutive streak all time, and recording the highest free throw percentage in a season, Jose Calderon was one of the few Raptors to hold an all time record in the NBA. Of course, there were also the two triple doubles he recorded this year.
But enough about stats.
In the world of Jose Calderon, there are a few moments that really stood out to me as my favourites. They go beyond the stats and speak towards the character of a player who I thought the world of.
Jose Calderon vs Kevin Garnett:
These two passionate players got into each others faces more than a few times over the years. Garnett, a player whom I love to hate, and Calderon, a player I just loved. KG always had a reputation for getting into the faces of players and intimidating everyone including the referees.
Fortunately, Jose Calderon was having none of it.
There was no greater spectacle than watching this 6'3" point guard go toe-to-toe and jaw-to-jaw against 6'11" center I consider to be the biggest bully in the league. It got so bad that KG went out to guard Jose Calderon as the game wound down and they just kept going at each other. Jose, with his never-break attitude came at Garnett with everything he had. In my mind, nothing exemplifies Jose Calderon's passion more than these battles.
Calderon brings a Gatorade for everyone:
You probably caught it during the breaks as the Raptors TV crew would give you a shot into the Raptors locker room. Watching Jose Calderon come up to his teammates with handfuls of Gatorade and tossing it out to his buds speaks to his character and how he fosters relationships with everyone. It also talks to his lack of an ego and his leadership.
That's only a small glimpse. There were other behind-the-scenes group building events such as hosting the team in Spain when the Raptors went abroad, and calling a team meeting and putting together a team dinner when things looked down.
He said it this year and proceeded to put together some of his strongest performances as a Toronto Raptor. Ever since he talked about the need for being professional in the wake of the Kyle Lowry situation, Jose Calderon turned it on and once again managed to win his starting point guard job back from another challenger.
Against T.J. Ford, Jarrett Jack, and Kyle Lowry, Jose has always come out on top, and I think we owe it to his professionalism in the face of adversity.
It sounded kinda weird when Leo, Jack, or Matt would talk about it, but Jose Calderon definitely managed to build chemistry with his teammates. I don't think we realized just how important that was until changes in in the point guard position saw that the team just fell apart on offense. When Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh were running the pick and roll with each other, they almost had it to an art form.
In the wake of Bosh's move to Miami, Amir Johnson became adept at running the pick and roll and was a poor man's substitute for Chris Bosh. But we've also seen in recent years how Jose Calderon has made Ed Davis a better player as well.
A lot of Canadians often wonder about having Steven Nash on the Raptors. Having a pass-first point guard who would make his whole team better and was a legitimate offensive threat was something many pined for. However, we had our own player who exuded many of the same qualities that we admire in Steve Nash. There's no way Jose Calderon would be a perennial All Star in the same way Nash was, but at the same time, Jose was a pass-first point guard in a league of show-boating me-first guards.
In that way, he was a lot more Steve Nash than most of us could have hoped for.
Here's hoping Jose Calderon all the success wherever he is in the future.