In Limbo

Calderon, still idled by visa issues, studies up to be ready to roll

Jose Calderon is making the best of his time before he suits up for the Pistons.
Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images
Jose Calderon can watch all the video he wants to familiarize himself with the offense whose reins will soon be in his hands, but until his visa issues are resolved he can’t practice with the Pistons or play in any games.

“They just told me they’ll let me know,” Lawrence Frank said. “He can’t do anything. He can have a pad. He can take notes. I stay away from it. When they tell me, ‘Don’t touch him,’ I don’t touch him. We can talk to him. This is like NCAA recruiting – the legal way.”

Aside from the delayed gratification, Frank doesn’t believe the delay will prolong Calderon’s acclimation process. The point-guard-in-limbo sat behind the team behind in Friday’s convincing win over Cleveland with a notepad.

“He’s not going to be able to practice with us, but he’ll be fine,” Frank said. “He’ll have enough (of the playbook) and he’s eight years in the NBA. He’ll be a quick study.”

Frank has tapped his contacts around the league to get a gauge on Calderon from those who’ve worked side by side with him over the years.

“The thing that’s great is when you get the same consistent message,” he said. “When you get mixed messages, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But with him, it’s all across the board – how diligent, intelligent, what his spirit is all about. We just want him to get him on the floor. He was taking notes during the game last night. He’s very, very intelligent. He’s dying. He wants to do it.”

Before the trade that sent Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to Memphis and brought Calderon over from Toronto, the Pistons had first and second units that played two distinctly different ways. The first unit played much of the time through Greg Monroe at the elbows or Prince as a point forward, while the second unit spread the floor with the shooting of Daye and Charlie Villaneuva while using Will Bynum or Rodney Stuckey in pick-and-roll situations with Andre Drummond.

That is likely to change now as Frank tweaks some pick-and-roll sets to take advantage of Calderon’s strengths.

“I’d say 65 to 70 percent of what teams run is kind of shared,” Frank said. “So you’re just translating names. What they may call something, we call something else. Tay was a good pick-and-roll option – he’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades. Now, with different lineups, we’ll tweak a couple of different things. Especially on the offensive end, you’re always playing to the strengths of your players. So pick-and-roll wise, we’ll continue to add some stuff for Jose that we know has been very good for him and we have some catch-and-shoot, some multiple pick-and-roll options that maybe we weren’t able to explore as much.”

An area dragging the Pistons down offensively has been low assist numbers relative to their turnover rate. They rank 22nd in the league in turnovers, 25th in assists. With Calderon expected to have the ball in his hands and become the primary playmaker – Frank has said he’ll be the starter as soon as he’s cleared to play – those numbers should improve. Calderon ranks a close second to Chris Paul in assist-to-turnover ratio, Calderon at 4.45 to Calderon’s 4.44.

That should help Monroe and Brandon Knight, two players who’ve had the ball in their hands a great deal, become more efficient.

“I think (Monroe’s) job will be easier,” Frank said. “If he sets good screens, he’s going to be open. You look at one of the weaknesses, we’ve been a high-turnvoer team. Calderon’s assist-to-turnover ratio, you guys have all seen it, compared to what ours is as a group.

“We’ll do some things fundamentally a little bit different because you have a guy who’s proven he can deliver the ball when it needs to be delivered. We’ll continue to move Greg around to different areas, but I think Greg will really see the value of setting good screens, especially with Jose, who’s done it for eight years. If he sets good screens, Jose’s going to get the ball to him.”

“We’ll work it out,” Knight said. “Great player, done a lot of good things over his career and definitely a big help for us coming in. We’ll get used to playing with each other and see how it works out.”

Knight doesn’t seem the least bit fazed by the prospect of spending most of his time playing off of the ball with Calderon and Bynum soaking up the majority of minutes at point guard.

“Same thing with (Stuckey),” he said. “I play a little more on the ball with Stuckey, but there were even times (against Cleveland) I came off the ball. I’m not worried about it. It’s just playing basketball.”