Calderon steps up and takes control

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jose Calderon is proving that when the team's Ford breaks down, he is able to drive the Raptors to victory.

After picking 13 points and five assists in a 92- 83 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, Calderon came up big again last night in Toronto's 94-77 win over the New Orleans Hornets at the Ford Center.

Taking over for banged-up starting point guard T.J. Ford, Calderon ran the offence with a plomb, scoring 13 again, with four assists, two steals and three boards, which is exactly what the Raptors need when Ford breaks down. Ford managed only two points and three dimes hobbling on his sore foot.

The on y downer on the night for the personable Calderon, who helped lead Spain o the world championship this past summer, was when he was shipped to the infirmary after landing hard on his left ankle late in the game.

The x-rays revealed nothing broken or torn, which was a huge relief for head coach Sam Mitchell, who suspects he will be leaning on Calderon heavily during the next few days with Ford bothered because of his bunion problems.

" W ords can't explain how well Jose is playing right now," Mitchell said.

"He runs the team, he's making open shots, making the right decisions. T.J. didn't have it tonight but Jose stepped in and ran the ball club and played great."

Calderon said there are a number of reasons for his improved play this season. For one, he is healthy. Last year, he played on a chronically sore right foot.

Of course, having a year in the NBA under his belt helps, as does having his friend and national team teammate Jorge Garbajosa around.

"I'm proud of him but I'm not surprised at how he's playing, because I know what he can do on the basketball court," said Garbajosa.

Calderon is averaging eight points and three assists in 14 games, and has improved in each of his past three.

"Last season was a bad season for me because I was not healthy," he said.

"I worked out in the summer to be ready to help my team to win games and I know my role and I'm ready to play. When I'm healthy I can help."

Raptors all-star Chris Bosh said he knew Calderon was poised to have a big season after watching him guide Spain to that gold medal.

"I kept telling him to shoot the ball last year, he didn't have any confidence in his shot. But I saw him playing in the world championships -- I didn't know he could move that quick -- and I had a lot of high expectations for this season," Bosh said.


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