CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Almost immediately after the deal was announced right at midnight, the start of free agency, Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman was maligned for the signing of veteran point guard Jose Calderon.
The beginning of his Cavaliers tenure was rocky for the 36-year-old, but that time was rocky for everyone. That includes Head Coach Tyronn Lue, who has had to shuttle through a third of his roster at the starting point guard position.
Calderon started the third game of the season at home against Orlando after the first injury to Derrick Rose, but things looked so rough that he played just 13:32 before a DNP the next game. Calderon came off the bench in a loss to Brooklyn and his minutes decreased quickly during a four game losing streak. Seven more consecutive DNPs followed.
The 13-year veteran remained ready and was again given the starting nod in the Cavs’ 28-point rout of the Detroit Pistons on November 17th. When the Cavaliers tip against the Utah Jazz exactly a month later, they will hold a 12-1 record since that date, all with Calderon at the helm of the first team.
The past two, including Thursday’s win, featured Calderon’s two top scoring marks of the season. His offensive presence was the difference against a former team in the Lakers, posting a season-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 5-of-8 from deep.
Calderon is shooting an astounding 51.4 percent from 3-point range on the year, taking the starting unit to a new level offensively.
“Taking his shots, being aggressive, that opened up everything else for us tonight,” Lue said. “Coming off the pick and roll, they couldn’t go under anymore, so they had to switch, which put (Lonzo) Ball on ‘Bron. He was able to take advantage of it. By him being aggressive, taking his shots, we had 32 assists tonight and they had a double-team.”
Dwyane Wade and James lauded their fellow veteran’s ability to protect the ball throughout his career.
Calderon boasts an almost 4-to-1 assist to turnover ratio over 13 years.
“He’s always been a safety valve for a team,” Wade said. “I used to hate when we played against him because he never turned the ball over. He never made risky passes.
“He settles things down.”
While the Cavaliers are holding their own at the point guard spot for now, they hope to take a huge step forward with the return of Isaiah Thomas beckoning. They thought they had made a huge splash with the addition of Rose to lead the first unit until Thomas healed, and the second unit thereafter.
Calderon was an afterthought to most, but his addition may be the one that kept a team with championship aspirations afloat when they needed steadying.
“He was always ready, I told him to stay ready, and that’s what true professionals do,” Lue said. “So he stepped in and he’s been playing great.”