Jose Calderon is no longer a Toronto Raptor.
That sentence hasn’t quite sunk in for a lot of people in the city of Toronto. If you’re a basketball fan in this city, then Jose Calderon has been a part of your conversations, frustrations, high and lows for the last 7 and a half years. He is as entrenched in the minds and hearts of basketball fans in this city as any player ever to wear the Raptors uniform.
And now he is a Detroit Piston.
On Monday night he officially joined the Pistons on the court after the three team trade that saw the Raptors acquire Rudy Gay.
You’d be forgiven if the sight of Calderon in a Pistons jersey made you shake your head a bit. It didn’t really seem right. For his entire career he’s been a Raptor. On Monday night he was on another team. Not the Raptor red that we were used to seeing, but still the same player.
Calderon shot the ball well, distributed, but did not show off high defensive ability and watched as his new team got beaten soundly by a much better New York Knicks team. As Jerry Seinfeld famously quipped “we are all really just cheering for laundry” and there was Calderon plying his trade in different laundry. But you couldn’t help but cheer for the guy wearing #8 in Pistons blue (as weird as it was).
The trade of five days ago, that once seemed so surreal, is now beginning to sink in. Rudy Gay is tearing it up after two games with the Raptors and giving fans hope that we may be witnessing a new brand of Raptors basketball. And the player once cheered loudly by Toronto fans is leading another rebuilding team a few hours south of the city he called home five days ago.
Calderon will always have a place in Toronto sports lore. He was one of the good guys in a world of sports that has too few. He always put forth his best effort on the court and took a huge amount of criticism from fans, bloggers and reporters for the shortcomings in his game. He never wavered or fought back, he simply went on doing his best.
Calderon was brought here by Rob Babcock in 2005 to be a second or third string point guard. He quickly emerged as a talented player worthy of so much more and quickly earned his backup minutes the following year playing an integral role in the Raptors Atlantic Division championship. His real “coming out party” was during the playoffs in 2007 when he played some of the best basketball of his career. He was, arguably, the best player on the Raptors team during all six games of that series. Though the Raptors ended up losing that series to New Jersey, Calderon emerged as a potential starter.
Over the next few years he battled through various point guard tandems. Every single tandem ended with another player leaving Toronto and Jose remaining. Like a season of Survivor, Calderon stayed while others were voted off the island. TJ Ford, Jarrett Jack, Jarryd Bayless and for a period Kyle Lowry all couldn’t match Calderon’s production and team chemistry. He simply proved himself to be too valuable to let go. Hell, the Raptors even traded Jose to Charlotte with Reggie Evans for Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw only to have the deal cancelled by Charlotte owner Michael Jordan.
Jose seemed destined to stay a Raptor forever.
Though his numbers slipped this year he just kept battling and seizing every opportunity that arrived. When Kyle Lowry went down with an injury this year, Jose stepped in and led the Raptors to a season changing run that now has this team within striking distance. The results of which, he will not be around to enjoy.
Jose has always had good offensive numbers highlighted by a high assist to turnover ratio and FG% every year and has helped other young players on this team emerge because of his great ability to get teammates involved often at the expense of his own production. All aspects that make him a truly special player.
He will be greatly missed by his teammates, coaches and most of all the city.
In a sports world full of ego-maniacs, self-centred prima donnas and jerks, Jose was a breath of fresh air. He was quiet, humble and happy to accept whatever role he was asked to fill. He never complained, never shot back at reporters that called him a porous defender or fans that begged for him to be traded. He took it all with a grain of salt and went on being the player that he is.
In a city that has been scorned by former stars like Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and Tracy McGrady, Jose embraced the city and the fans with open arms. He embraced them on and off the court, was always happy to talk to fans, sign autographs or take pictures with them. When he was criticised by fans or reporters he simply let his game do the talking. He didn’t shy away from his critics.
Whether playing off the bench, in a starter’s role or as a cheerleader on the sidelines he embraced every role he was given. He was a consummate professional and the very definition of a team player.
In typical Calderon fashion on his way to another team, his only wish was for the Raptors continued success. “”It’s been my home for eight years…I’ve done everything possible for this team…the fans have been with me since Day 1. It’s tough…Hopefully this team is back to the playoffs as soon as possible.”
Even on his way out he was gracious and thankful. A true team player to the bitter end.
Players like Calderon are not a dime a dozen. He was truly special player. He will be greatly missed. Unlike other former Raptors (most notably Vince Carter and Chris Bosh), Jose’s Raptor jersey will be worn with pride around the ACC, despite not being on the team anymore. When word of the trade hit, his jersey was apparently sold out in the team shops around the ACC, something never before seen in these parts.
I’m not afraid to admit that he has been my favourite player since the 06-07 season and I proudly own a Calderon Jersey. I will be honoured to wear it upon his return to the ACC on April 1st when he accompanies the Pistons to Toronto.
It’ll be weird, as it was on Monday night. He’ll be wearing different laundry, but it’ll still be the same Jose.
The Zan Tabak Herald