EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jose Calderon just keeps rising to the challenge.
The Raptors rookie point guard, who was placed in the starting lineup at the beginning of the week, continued to impress last night in arguably his best game of the season.
The native of Spain scored eight points, including the go-ahead basket on a layup in the fourth quarter, and had eight assists as the Raptors beat the New Jersey Nets 95-82.
"He's a heady point guard," Raptors swingman Morris Peterson said. "He's constantly learning. He has been playing back home in the (Spanish) pro league for (several) years. He's a rookie, but he's a seasoned rookie. He has been in a lot of big games. Jose has been doing a great job for us, especially the last couple of nights. He's starting to really learn the NBA game and the pace."
In four games as a starter, Calderon is averaging seven assists, not a bad number for a freshman or any player, for that matter. He came into last night seventh in the NBA with a 3.29 assist-to-turnover ration.
With backcourt-mate Mike James out with back spasms last night, Calderon had a heavier workload, but that wasn't a problem.
His drive to the hoop for the tie-breaking basket -- it was 80-80 when he scored -- opened the eyes of coach Sam Mitchell.
"We've been telling Jose attack the basket and when they tied the score, for him to come down to get a layup which gave us back the lead was huge for us," Mitchell said.
Calderon, whose shooting is inconsistent, also hit a couple of key three-pointers last night.
"He has made a lot of improvement, especially coming to the States and playing a different type of basketball," Raptors forward Chris Bosh said. "The coaches have really been on him, but he never got down on himself. He always kept at it and he takes criticism very well."