Spanish professional player talks about returning to Detroit as a free agent after playing in Toronto. Rod Beard
At age 36, Jose Calderon isn’t done just yet. In the right situation, he can still help an NBA team, playing in a reduced role and taking advantage of his skill set.
The only question is how much he still has left.
The Pistons added Calderon last weekend on a free-agent contract for the veteran minimum of $2.4 million — and though there aren’t grand expectations, Calderon can fill a role. It was a similar situation when he played with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season and averaged 4.5 points and 2.1 assists in 57 games, including 32 starts.
Calderon also had a short stint with the Pistons in 2012-13 for 28 starts. In his return, he joins Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith at point guard, and this time he’ll be the oldest player on the roster.
“At the end of the day, they know what I can do — I’m here to help,” Calderon said. “We have really good players at my position and I’m here to fill whatever role they need me to. Sometimes I’ll play more and sometimes I’ll play less, like I was in Cleveland last year. I’m ready for whatever.”
It’ll also be a reunion for new Pistons coach Dwane Casey and Calderon, who was with the Toronto Raptors from 2011-13 before the trade to Detroit. This time, he’ll be called upon to provide depth — needed insurance in case Jackson suffers another long-term injury this season — and provide some veteran presence in the locker room.
That familiarity made him a prime target in free agency for Casey and Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski, who was also in the Raptors front office when Calderon played there.
“Casey knows him extremely well and has coached him. He can play with a lot of different players. He’s a very good ball-handler and a playmaker and he can make an open 3,” Stefanski said. “He can play with a lot of our guys and that’s the reason we brought him in.
“The leadership factor is very big to help the coach and in the locker room. He’s been a leader his whole life and he’ll show our young guys how to be professional.”
The Pistons are seeking veteran leadership to augment their roster, with their most-senior veteran, Anthony Tolliver, leaving for the Minnesota Timberwolves in free agency. That wasn’t lost on Stefanski in making a move that also gave the Pistons some relief in the salary cap, as their payroll approached the luxury-tax line.
LeBron James’ departure and the imminent change with the Cavaliers brought an opportunity for Calderon to plant new roots — while still being a potential asset.
“I was looking for a team that was ready to win and go to the next level,” Calderon said. “We are in position to be a really good team and it was a good opportunity for me to help the team.”
Of all the people on the Pistons’ roster, Calderon could have the closest connection to Casey, from their time in Toronto. From that, he has a clear understanding of what to expect when training camp starts in the fall and how Casey will impact the Pistons.
Casey has spoken highly of the Pistons’ young pieces but also sees the value in the veterans and how the two groups can mesh. He’s regarded for player development and his relationships with players, and Calderon has seen it firsthand.
“He’s a great coach all around and he showed that in Toronto. He got guys better and played his young guys,” Calderon said. “He plays team basketball and that’s important for us with the team we have. We can be dangerous when we play this way and that’s the way we should do.
“He’s going to make everybody accountable and ready and it’ll be good for the team.”
Casey already has started the process of building those relationships, by meeting with each player on the team and getting their input on which direction things should go. He has also let each of them know about his outlook for their roles on the team and what the expectations are.
That straight talk looks to be one of the ways that Casey connects — and the players appreciate it. There are no agendas and no miscommunications, which reduces the friction between the coaching staff and roster.
“He’s always been honest with me. He’s straightforward and he’s going to tell you what he thinks and why you’re playing or not playing,” Calderon said. “You have to respect that. You can like it more or less sometimes but that makes you respect your coach and what he wants to do as a team.
“He’s all about the team.”