Answering the Calderón
Cavs Solidify Backup Point, Ink 12-Year Vet
There’s no question that the Wine & Gold are blessed with one of the most spectacular point guards in the Association. But since Kyrie’s “Australian brother” departed for Milwaukee after the 2016 season, the Cavaliers have been searching for a consistent backup ever since.
At this point last year, it seemed like veteran Mo Williams might fill that role. But after he unexpectedly announced his retirement just days before Camp tipped off, Head Coach Tyronn Lue conducted one audition after another – with Jordan McRae and DeAndre Liggins trying to fill the role until Kay Felder could develop at the NBA level.
Both McRae and Liggins – neither of whom were pure point guards -- struggled in that spot. And Felder, while showing flashes of the player who led the NCAA in assists the previous season, had some rough patches as an undersized rookie.
Deron Williams joined the squad after being waived by the Mavericks in late-February. After getting back into game-shape, Williams closed out the regular season strong and was effective off the bench to start the postseason before falling on hard times in the Finals – going 2-of-16 from the floor in the series.
Stability is a key component of the point guard position; as the “head of the snake,” the offense depends on his ability to orchestrate. And this season, the Wine & Gold didn’t want to head into Camp with any question marks.
Cue Monday’s signing of veteran lead-guard, José Calderón.
Calderón spent last season splitting time between the Lakers and Hawks – playing in 41 games and starting 13. He had one of the toughest offensive regular seasons of his career, but performed well for Atlanta in the postseason.
After a decorated pro career in Spain, the 36-year-old native of Villanueva de la Serena joined the Raptors as a 24-year-old rookie in 2005.
Calderón struggled from the floor, but by his third season was averaging double-figure scoring – doing so in five of the next six seasons – and routinely finished among the league’s leaders in assists.
After spending the first seven-plus years of his career with the Toronto Raptors, the two-time Silver medalist (2008, 2012) has been with five teams before inking the deal with Cleveland this summer.
Calderón’s role with Cleveland could not be more cut-and-dried. He is not a combo-guard, a 2-guard in a 1’s body or a defensive specialist who also happens to play the point.
His numbers haven’t been flashy over the past few years and might not be again with the Wine & Gold. But he is filling a vital role with a team with designs on June basketball – and almost as importantly, he allows the team to head into Training Camp without a question mark hovering over one of the roster’s most critical spots.
Kyrie Irving reached his fourth All-Star Game last year and the best offseason of his career. He was durable – playing in 72 games and averaging just over 35 minutes per.
But the Cavaliers need to have a playmaker on the floor when he gets a blow. Kay Felder had his ups-and-downs as a rookie and is trying to make his bid for backup this week in Las Vegas. He’s had some challenges shooting the ball – going a combined 11-for-43 through the first three contests in the desert, but he did lead Cleveland with six assists in Saturday’s win over Houston.
With more moves ahead, the Wine & Gold are shoring up for another run at the Ring after falling short in their title trilogy with the Warriors.