Calderón Having Immediate Impact With Hawks

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Story by KL Chouinard
Twitter: @KLChouinard

In just a handful of games, José Calderón has brought a veteran presence to the Atlanta Hawks.

Sometimes the contribution is spelled out like a broad headline, like when the 11-year NBA veteran scored 14 points against the Memphis Grizzlies and Marc Gasol, a player with whom Calderón won the 2006 FIBA World Championship.

Sometimes what Calderón adds is more subtle, like a footnote. Against the Toronto Raptors, his team for the first 7.5 seasons of his career, Calderón showed his savvy by simply giving a foul at the right time. With two seconds left in the third quarter and Delon Wright zooming in transition toward midcourt, Calderón gave a quick foul that forced the Raptors to inbound the ball against a set Hawks defense that eventually kept them from scoring.

Against the San Antonio Spurs (and Pau Gasol, a player with whom Calderón won three Olympic medals), he made another veteran move. With Manu Ginobili and Dwayne Dedmon executing a pick-and-roll that ended with a Ginobili pass toward the rim, Calderón saw the play developing and dashed in from the weakside corner to leap and break up the pass just as it was about to get to Dedmon's hands. 

Despite the early signs of success and the fact that the Hawks have gone 3-1 in the four games that Calderón has played, he thinks that he will get better as he gets more familiar with his teammates.

"Sometimes when you get to this time of the season, the problem is that you don't have the practice time," Calderón said. "So it's kind of like my practice being out there (in games). It's a little bit more difficult because you don't want to make mistakes. You're still learning what your teammates are used to doing." 

When asked about Calderón, Head Coach Mike Budenholzer hinted at the newcomer's veteran point-guard presence and the fact that he is a career 41 percent three-point shooter.

"He's a smart player," Budenholzer said. "He's been around a long time. His shooting and his playmaking have been good for us."

Budenholzer also clearly stated that Calderón's arrival and playing time weren't a referendum on Malcolm Delaney's play as the backup point guard. Getting a third point guard -- whether that player eventually ends up in the regular rotation or not -- was a key hedge against an injury to Dennis Schröder or Delaney for a team destined for the playoffs. Plus, to have Calderón fully ready when it matters most, he needed to get some minutes. 

"Malcolm has been great all year, and we're really pleased with how he plays," Budenholzer said. "Malcolm brings a lot to the table. But I think it's great to have José as another (option). To get through the majority of the season without a third point guard is unusual. I think José is someone who can come in and fight for those minutes. I can see giving him an opportunity and giving chances to see how he can help us, but Malcolm has been very, very good."

Calderón and Tim Hardaway Jr. know each other well. The two played together for the New York Knicks in the 2014-15 season, sharing the court for 531 minutes. 

"He's a great point guard," Hardaway Jr. said of Calderón, before adding that he thought Calderón would benefit from the additional pick-and-roll opportunities that he would see in Atlanta.

"But we still move the ball, we still cut, we still have a little bit of our principles from our old offense in New York, but this right here is more free, freedom to do what you want. I think he feels comfortable in it."

Hardaway also agreed with the idea that the two had the flexibility to share the on- and off-ball responsibilities as they have done in the first few games. Budenholzer thought Hardaway Jr. would be happy simply to be reunited with José Calderón, the person. 

"José is just an incredible human being and teammate," Budenholzer said, "so Timmy is probably excited to see someone like that added to the team. He's such an unselfish point guard. He's always looking for shooters."

Then Coach Bud broke into a smile. 

"The shooters like those guys."