Handy man: Calderon doing whatever Cavaliers need
CLEVELAND — It’s two hours before tip-off, and Jose Calderon is working up a healthy sweat on the floor at Quicken Loans Arena.
Then he retreats to the locker room to study. Sitting at his cubicle, just feet from where LeBron James dresses, Calderon watches video of that night’s opponent on his phone or on a large TV mounted on the other side of the room.
Calderon may play tonight — or sit. He never knows exactly. Either way, abiding by the Boy Scout’s motto, he will be prepared.
“I know I got to be ready in any moment,” he said.
Now in his 13th season, Calderon is Cleveland’s Jose-on-the-spot, a dependable player capable of starting, coming off the bench or pulling for his teammates from the bench as an extended member of the coaching staff.
Invaluable. Trustworthy. At 36.
On Friday night, Calderon was needed in the third quarter after starting point guard George Hill sprained his left ankle. Calderon sparked the Cavs to a 107-102 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, preventing Cleveland from sliding out of third place in the Eastern Conference. Calderon made one of three 3-pointers in a 1:33 span as the Cavs overcame a 13-point deficit and won for the seventh time in eight games.
Calderon finished with just five points in 14 minutes, but his contributions went way beyond his statistics as he brought his usual steadiness and energy to the floor.
James has become one of his biggest fans.
“You got to have one or two guys like that on every team, someone who has kind of like zero ego, zero notion of entitlement,” said the three-time champion, who broke one of Michael Jordan’s scoring records against the Pelicans.
“Listen, his whole thing is like, ‘I’m going to stay ready. I’ll stay ready so if my number is called,’ and he goes out and produces and that’s big for our team because you never know when someone is going to go down.”
With the Cavs, someone always seems to be going down.
Cleveland has been overrun by injuries all season. And with Hill to miss Sunday’s game against Dallas and maybe more, the Cavs will need to tweak their lineup again just as they head into the playoffs.
Fortunately for them, Calderon, whose signing as a free agent last summer was met with indifference by many Cleveland fans following All-Star Kyrie Irving’s blockbuster trade, has handled any role the Cavs have given him.
The team is 21-9 in Calderon’s 30 starts and 26-11 when he plays at least 10 minutes. He has earned his teammates’ respect and his coach’s admiration.
“This guy has answered the bell,” said assistant coach Larry Drew, who is running the club while Tyronn Lue is away for health reasons. “His attitude has been phenomenal. I mean he just stays ready and he really loves this team, he loves his teammates. He loves his coaches and he just said, ‘Coach, whenever you guys need me I’m here for you. I’ll stay ready.’ You can’t do anything but take your hat off for a guy like that.”
Calderon’s minutes have varied since the season opener. He began the year behind Derrick Rose, then moved into the starting lineup briefly before Isaiah Thomas returned from injury and Calderon was back on the bench.
He didn’t play even one minute in 22 games, but Calderon never complained or did anything other than make sure he was ready for his next chance.
“I know what I can do out there,” he said following Friday’s game. “I just got to stay ready for whenever my name is called, and today it was because G-Hill went down and I just went out there and just gave effort and it worked out well.”
This has been a new experience for the affable Spaniard, who spent seven seasons with Toronto before stops in Detroit, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Until this year, he has been primarily a starter but he’s embracing his jack-of-all-trades role with Cleveland.
“I’ve never been on a team like this, either,” he said. “So I think everything goes together.”
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