|Toronto Raptors Jose Calderon goes over the top of Cleveland Cavaliers Mo Williams for a loose ball. (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)
BOSTON — Where would the Raptors be without Jose Calderon?
Head coach Jay Triano probably doesn’t want to even think about it, yet that was almost the case since Calderon was all but dealt to Charlotte this off-season before Bobcats owner Michael Jordan nixed the trade.
With apologies to Jarrett Jack — who ended up leaving when Calderon stayed — the Raptors would probably have been in a dark place if the team’s longest-serving player had in fact been moved.
Though many starting point guards are better overall players than the Spaniard and average far gaudier numbers, few are as crucial to their team’s offence as Calderon is to the Raptors.
After the Raptors looked lost offensively — averaging just 85 points per game — in losing badly to Boston and Chicago earlier this week without Calderon, he returned in spectacular fashion on Wednesday.
The Cavaliers had no answers for Calderon, who scored 20 points and added a season-high 17 assists with just three turnovers.
While afterwards, Calderon credited his teammates for getting to the right spots, Triano made it clear the veteran was simply being humble.
“It’s different when you have a point guard out there running the show,” Triano said of the greatly improved attack.
“Jose makes sure everybody is in the right place all the time. Jerryd (Bayless) and Leandro (Barbosa) are more scorers, sometimes we don’t get the movement that we need (when they are playing the point). It makes a world of difference.”
It is too late for Barbosa to morph into something he is not, but young Bayless still has time to be molded into more of a traditional point guard.
The challenge for the Raptor is getting him there without taking away from his strengths, which include an instinctive ability to break down defences and score.
Bayless is aware of what he needs to work on.
“I have to be an extension of Jay out there,” Bayless said after the loss in Chicago.
“I have to do a better job of getting everybody focused.”
Learning every day from Calderon certainly can’t hurt, but it has been a while since they were healthy enough to practice against each other and over the past five games they have not both been in the lineup except for when Bayless managed eight minutes against the Rockets on New Years Eve, before leaving due to ankle pain.
Calderon plans to play against Boston on Friday and will continue to deal with his own pain until the training staff says he is risking significant injury by suiting up. Bayless is questionable.
Triano admitted before the win over the Cavs that the Raptors could soon be in the market for an emergency point guard.
Teams can now sign players to 10-day contracts and forward Ronald Dupree was let go earlier in the week to clear up a roster spot.
“I think that’s something we’re going to have to look at a little closer, we need to find out who‚s going to be available (to play against Boston and then against Sacramento on Sunday),” Triano said on Wednesday, adding he had been in touch with general manager Bryan Colangelo about possible candidates.
“If Jose and Jerryd are (still) having problems, we might have to look at a point guard. At the same time, just having depth and enough guys to practice would be a nice thing.”
The battered Raptors have not been able to field enough healthy bodies to do a proper five-on-five scrimmage for some time.
With Sonny Weems and Peja Stojakovic nearing returns though, it is hard to see Colangelo not opting for a point guard if he goes the 10-day route.