Calderon: this has to be my year

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:45 PM ET

Raptors point guard Jose Calderon said he was “embarrassed” on the court at times last season because of his inability to play defence and his lack of mobility with the ball.

And for that reason, the fifth-year Raptor dedicated the summer to becoming totally healthy in preparation for the upcoming NBA season — and that meant not playing for the Spanish team at the recent European championships in Poland.

Normally, Calderon loves playing for his country.

But this summer, it was all about preparing for the NBA season and showing the Raptors that his best basketball is still in front of him.

“I was terrible since January,” Calderon said in a candid interview at the Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham yesterday.

“I couldn’t play defence for the last part of the season. On offence, I was just settling for jumpers because I couldn’t go one-on-one with my man.

“Last year, my numbers were better, but I was playing at 50%,” he continued. “So, this has to be my year. I just want to win this year, forget about last year and work at getting this team into the playoffs and being a contender.”

A sore hamstring suffered part-way through the 2008-09 season limited Calderon’s ability to pivot or cut on the court.

The 28-year-old posted career numbers for points (12.8 per game), assists (8.9) and rebounds (2.9), but never felt right.

In essence, the personable point guard felt that he let the team down, and is out to prove this season that he can play defence.

Calderon is considered one of the best ball distributors in the NBA, but he defence has been questioned.

“The defence starts with me,” he said. “I’m the point guard and I’m the first one who has to play defence.

“I was embarrassed last year because of my leg. I couldn’t go right or left. I’m the first (line of defence) and I’m going to start playing defence.”

Calderon is excited about the off-season moves GM Bryan Colangelo made — most notably the acquisition of forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Reggie Evans, first round draft pick DeMar DeRozan and guard Jarrett Jack — and added that there’s no reason why they can’t play better on defence and, subsequently, quality for the playoffs.

The Raptors, hampered by injuries, went 33-49 last season and failed to make the post-season.

“Boston got better (in the off-season). Cleveland and Orlando are good. But, after that, we have a good fight to get in,” said Calderon.

“But we have to play defence and try to rebound. We’ve got better rebounders this year. Turkoglu is a good rebounder, Reggie Evans too. And run. We have a team that can run and everybody can pass the ball. I think we can have a really good team.”

Interestingly, both Calderon and teammate Andrea Bargnani expressed confidence yesterday that if the Raptors play well this season and qualify for the playoffs, Chris Bosh will stay in Toronto after his current deal expires at the end of the season.

“I’m not worried about (Bosh leaving),” said Bargnani. “He loves Toronto.”

“He said to me, and he’s a good friend,” added Calderon, “that he’s happy in Toronto.”

Bosh spent a week at Calderon’s youth camp in Spain this summer.

Bosh, meanwhile, has a strained left hamstring and will likely miss the opening of training camp, which begins next Tuesday in Ottawa.

The technologically inclined Bosh will be signing autographs today at Experience Communications, an authorized Rogers dealer, at 1015 Lake Shore Blvd. East (noon-1 p.m.).

The all-star will also unveil his new iPhone application, available for free online at Chris-Bosh.com.


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