Raps' Calderon must get greedy

FRANK ZICARELLI, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

SACRAMENTO -- The NBA landscape is dotted with shoot-first point guards and floor generals who prefer to distribute the basketball.

The elite guard is capable of doing both, especially in the fourth quarter when creating opportunities for oneself is as important as protecting the basketball and getting a teammate touches.

It's a fine line between being selfish, which is, at times, required, and maintaining a team-first mentality.

Jose Calderon is neither an elite point guard nor an average point guard. He finds himself somewhere in the middle at a time when the Raptors are trying to find their game. They entered last night's late tip against the host Kings six games under .500 at 11-17.

Calderon's numbers speak to his greatest skill: His ability to find teammates and to take care of the basketball. But if the Raptors are to make a serious push, it is up to Calderon to be more selfish.

Being selfish is not in his nature -- an admission interim head coach Jay Triano reinforced yesterday -- but as Calderon evolves into his role as the team's undisputed general, he has to look to attack more and be less concerned about protecting the basketball.

Devin Harris, of the New Jersey Nets, is the classic combo guard, a description that has come to characterize a lot of backcourt players because of their ability to score and create their own offence.

No NBA player has been as effective in fourth quarters as Harris, who is the unanimous pick as the league's most improved player now that the Nets have asked him to take over games down the stretch.

Harris is quick, attacks the rim and isn't afraid to make mistakes.

Calderon can make shots from every spot on the floor and is very good from the foul line, when he actually makes a trip to the charity stripe. He also can play in transition and in a half-court set.

The Raptors' bread-and-butter play is the high screen and roll with Calderon initiating the offence.

He's not as quick or explosive as Harris, nor is he as tall and athletic. But Calderon is more poised.

In a one-on-one game, Harris would win hands down.

Each player is in full control of his respective team for the first time.

On paper, the Nets and Raptors have similar talent, which is to say that neither is deep in talent.

Lawrence Frank has been getting the most out of his young and inexperienced players in New Jersey, while Triano is still hopeful his team will demonstrate a more consistent work ethic, energy level and commitment to defence.

Harris moved to the Jersey swamps from Dallas essentially for Jason Kidd, for years the game's top point guard.

Calderon was picked by the Raptors to lead when it was identified that T.J. Ford had to be moved.

In three road games prior to last night, Calderon reached double digits only once. In the three games, he committed a total of four turnovers.

Calderon is cautious with the basketball to a fault.

"That's just Jose's nature, to be careful with the basketball,'' Triano said. "It's a good thing for your point guard to have. You don't want them firing the ball all over the place with people in the first row ducking. Jose's very careful. Could he push the ball a little more? We all could. Our wing players could run a little bit faster and our post guys can be down the floor a little quicker.

"It's not just on him. It's on all of us and it's a mindset we have to get used to and we're starting to get there."

PUSH THE BALL

Under Triano, the Raptors want to push the ball, which puts even more of an onus on Calderon.

Only Chris Paul (11.4) and Deron Williams (9.6) have produced more assists than Calderon (8.8). No player has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Calderon (4.32), but this stat is among the most overrated in the game.

Maybe it's not his nature to be selfish, but the Raptors don't have players who can create off the bounce.

That is why Calderon has to be less careful and more willing to be aggressive, especially in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps it's not in him to be selfish, but Calderon has to at least try to be less selfless.


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