In a way, you can understand why Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon seems a bit ill-tempered. If only briefly, as noticed by a gaggle of Toronto-area scribes during his impromptu media meeting on Monday. The Spanish waterbug is entering his eighth season with the team, setting all sorts of records for Raptors longevity as he suits up for what is likely to be his last year with the only NBA team he has ever played for. The Raptors are certainly not the only NBA team he's been rumored to be dealt to, though, as Calderon has endured almost unending trade rumors and musings about his potential impermanence since joining the franchise all the way back in 2005.
With the team's summertime acquisition of the emerging Kyle Lowry to man the starting point slot, Calderon was once again put on the defensive; an area that he's both thrived in while discussing things with the media through the years, and disappointed in while working on the court. Things were just as up and down on Tuesday as he was initially questioned about training camp team-building exercises, as reported by the Steve Buffrey from Slam Sports:
"We're not going to do that this year," Calderon snapped.
Yikes. It seems the eighth-year Raptor IS bitter about GM Bryan Colangelo going out and acquiring another starting-calibre point guard in Kyle Lowry this off-season.
But after a second or two of awkward silence, Calderon smiled. Turns out — or so he insists — Calderon is not unhappy that the Raptors traded for the ever-improving Lowry — the guy who may very well take away Calderon's starting point guard spot this season.
"No. I'm really happy here," said Calderon, when asked if media reports were true, that he was angry about the Lowry move. "I know during the summer there was a lot of (talk). Everybody was talking about a lot of crazy things that maybe wasn't ... 100% true."
Not a hundred percent true … that's probably true.
As we talked about two and a half months ago, Marc Stein of ESPN reported that Calderon and his representatives didn't exactly demand a trade to any available team earlier in the offseason. Rather, they hoped the team would deal Calderon to a squad that had enough cap space to take him on, and also the amnesty clause still available to use on Jose; kind of limiting Toronto's options to Dallas and possibly Charlotte (who once traded for Jose, before medical issues got in the way). This deal would allow Calderon to pick his next NBA team (or head into international waters) while still making $10.6 million US during 2012-13 regardless of where he ended up.
The Raptors, even with Kyle Lowry (who was playing at a near All-Star level with the Houston Rockets last year when a disturbing illness upended his season) in the fold, smartly said "no." Calderon — as a starter or bench helper — might not be worth the eight figures he'll make next year. But he's also a starting-level point guard that the Raptors can bring off the bench (Raps coach Dwane Casey was non-committal about who would start in talking with the media on Monday), or significant trade bait both for his expiring contract, and still solid play.
And Calderon, because he is an eight-year pro who knows how to deal with situations along these lines, went on to handle things smoothly while saying all the right things to the Toronto press.
"You have to compete to be (a starter). At the end of the day, the coach is the one who gives you more or less minutes. I don't know what Kyle thinks about it. (But) at the end of the day, if we want to win, we have to co-exist. We're just going to try to win games for the Raptors."
"I think (you) just want to make a big theme before everything has started," he said. "But it doesn't matter. We've got to win games if we want to make the playoffs. If he (Lowry) scores 20 points per game, I'll be happy."
We don't doubt that. Calderon has made the playoffs just twice in his seven previous years with the Raptors, and though the additions of Lowry, Landry Fields, and well-regarded 2011 lottery pick Jonas Valanciunas will help the Raptors as they continue with the endless rebuild, a trip to the postseason in 2012-13 is no sure thing.
Even with five months' worth of trade rumors bound to swirl around between now and February's trade deadline, Calderon at least knows he's going to get paid, he'll be the master of his own destiny once his free agency hits on July 1st, and he's going to get good enough playing time either as Lowry's reserve (it's hard to believe Casey will go with Jose as a starter once late October rolls around), or on another team.
Calderon — who has dealt with sharing minutes with Mike James, T.J. Ford, Jarrett Jack, and Jerryd Bayless in his time with the Raptors — is no stranger to this sort of setup. It's par for his NBA course, eight seasons in.