When the going gets tough, Pistons can count on heady Calderon for perspective
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CHARLOTTE – When the Pistons went looking for a third point guard last summer, Jose Calderon checked off every box.
A stabilizing veteran presence to help a young team moderate the inevitable turbulence of the 82-game season was one of those boxes. And that’s a role Calderon is ready to fill now when the Pistons – mired in a six-game losing streak exacerbated by a run of injuries – need it most.
“I’ve been saying the same thing when we were winning games – it’s 82 games,” Calderon said after the most stinging loss of the season, a one-point setback to the Charlotte Hornets after the Pistons led by 10 midway through the fourth quarter. “You’ve got to have everything in perspective. Who we’re playing, how we’re playing. I don’t think our basketball went from the best basketball to the worst basketball. We’re playing better teams and we get some injuries and we’re not as deep.”
And through all of that, Calderon points to the calendar, to the record and to the fact that the vast majority of their Eastern Conference peers have their own issues.
“Yes, it’s really bad to lose and be in this streak. But, still, we’re only 26 games in, we’re 50 percent (a 13-13 record), we can keep building. The East is not going anywhere. We’re going to keep fighting. I know we have some teams coming up playing really good basketball. We’ve got to keep fighting, keep getting guys back and just be patient – just keep playing basketball.”
It’s exactly the message Casey wants coming from inside his locker room, amplifying his drumbeat of building good habits and staying the course. It’s exactly what he knew he was getting in Calderon, who played for Casey in Toronto, checking off another box.
“He’s one of the smartest players in our league,” Casey said. “Father Time is undefeated, but he still has gas in the tank. He’s a competitor. He does everything he can to help our other players.”
Calderon, 37, was thrust into the rotation when Ish Smith suffered a torn adductor last week. A 41 percent career 3-point shooter, he’s yet to find a groove from the arc this season – he’s made just 4 of 26 3-point shots this season or 15.3 percent – but he’s maintained a fine assists-to-turnovers ratio at better than 3:1 and has quickly found chemistry with the second unit after playing sparingly over much of November.
“I think being ready or staying ready is the most difficult job in the NBA,” he said. “To be not playing at all to play three minutes to be able if something happens to play 20 one night or start – there’s not a lot of practice time. You’ve got to do it on your own and if you want to stay sharp, it’s not the same as a game. But at the end of the day, I did it. I’ve been doing it and be ready to help, whatever the coach needs. Hopefully, get everybody back and back to the normal rotation and back to staying ready. It’s not easy at all, but I compete out there and do whatever I can.”
Calderon appeared as if he would join the injured list in Monday’s game at Philadelphia when he crumpled to the floor and clutched at his lower leg the way someone who’d suffered a knee injury might. Instead, it was his reaction to a painful kick to the calf muscle.
“I think he saw Khyri (Thomas) getting up off the bench and all of a sudden he got healed,” Casey said of Calderon, who limped badly downcourt but waved off a replacement and stayed in the game. “He’s a tough, tough guy. We were falling like flies and he knew we needed him and he stood in and stuck it out.”
In a subdued Pistons locker room at Spectrum Center, Calderon acknowledged the loss but stepped back to urge a wider perspective.
“Usually when you’re in these situations, the ball is going to go off your foot and out of bounds, you’re going to step on the line. It happens. We’ve got to keep staying together, keep working the way we’re working. We’re getting some guys back and healthy. We knew this was going to be a tough one, but we’ve got to keep fighting. Yes, it’s tough to lose, but this is the kind of effort we need every night. We’ve got to execute better. There’s no secrets out there. We’ve just got to do it together.”