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Former NBA Point Guard Jose Calderon Reflects On The Role Of Hard Work And Being A Team Player

José Calderón | Retired NBA Point Guard | Toronto Raptors (mainly, but played with 6 other teams afterwards)

That’s how you gain respect in this league. It’s not about putting up crazy numbers, it’s more about how you play and compete.

José Calderón

Retired NBA Point Guard

Toronto Raptors (mainly, but played with 6 other teams afterwards)

× The interview with José Calderón was conducted via a phone conversation and later transcribed. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

You had quite the NBA career having played all over the league and having first entered in the summer of 2005 coming to Toronto. GM at the time Rob Babcock brought you to the Raptors. What were your thoughts on coming to the NBA after having played in the Spanish league for several years?

I always say the same thing, it looks like an easy move when the NBA called, but it’s not always so easy. You know how the locker rooms work and the speed of the game.

When I was called, I went to Toronto because I wasn’t sure what to expect.

After I made the decision to go, I said “Let’s try this since it could be a great experience and whatever happens from here, we’ll see”.

That’s how everything worked and I ended up in Toronto.

You came to the Raptors when they were building towards a return to the playoffs. How did you carve out your role as a point guard coming off the bench in the first year in the NBA and what was the most difficult thing about adjusting to the league?

The most difficult thing was more about my English.

Being a PG was really hard, maybe I wasn’t ready enough.

I thought I knew English until I got to the NBA and I wasn’t really able to connect with my guys.

I always tell this story of a time when I was calling the play in the half court and nobody was moving.

Everyone was looking at each other saying “What is this guy saying?”…they had no idea what I wanted them to run. That was my toughest situation during my transition.

Basketball is basketball, the speed of the game does not take that much time to adjust to. 

After your first season, the Raptors started to come around. It was a great year for yourself and for the team having reached the first round of the playoffs for the first time in several years. Who were some of the key coaches and teammates who helped you excel in your second year role?

Everybody helped to some degree. It was a great group of guys.

Sam Mitchell was the head coach, and he was very hard on me in the first year. I had to convince him that I could play basketball after my first year, but then we built a great relationship.

Jim Todd, Alex English and Jay Triano, all the assistant coaches, helped me a lot.

As far as teammates go, Chris Bosh was helpful and so was Derek Martin.

Derek was a veteran player who took me under his wing and helped me out since we played the same position.

I was really lucky to have a great group of teammates who all helped. They knew I didn’t speak a lot of English but worked hard every day to do my best and to learn from them.

These things helped me to grow as a player.

What was special about being an international player on the Raptors before there was a surge of international players on the team in the next few seasons?

It made it easier, especially in the community as well. From day one I felt like I was home.

It was a little bit easier to adjust to life in the NBA since Toronto is such a multicultural city. People treated me very well from the team to the fans.

It was a perfect city for me and I loved it.

I was lucky that other guys came with the same situation so I was able to help them and they also helped me.

So there was a great international flavour of players during those few years in toronto for sure.

What was the best thing about your first few years playing for the Toronto Raptors?

Everything I think.

  • Being able to play against those big names that I was watching when I was playing in Spain.
  • Being able to compete with them.
  • The setup of a trip, how organized they were.
  • The little details of how gameday operated were different than in Europe.
  • Being able to see the stadiums of other teams or the locker rooms we spent time in.

These were all cool things about the first few years of my NBA experience.

I was just a kid living my dream.

Who was the toughest opponent you played against when you were in Toronto?

I played against Allen Iverson, who was really tough during that time.

Prime Derrick Rose was really good also.

I was a rookie on the team when Kobe Bryant scored 81 points against us, and I took it as a historic experience being new to the league.

When Kobe passed away last year, it made me cherish the significance of those memories that much more.

How did you handle your transition from coming off the bench to being a starting point guard for the Raptors after your third season?

It was one more step.

That is what you always dream of and that was the right time for me to move into that role. I wasn’t going to rush into it.

I believe that decision is made based on how hard you work and the results you produce.

Sometimes that decision is made based on the system the team runs, but I was not too worried about my minutes.

I was always concerned about being a team player and being part of something more important than myself. Whether I was coming off the bench or starting I wanted to put in the work and good minutes that contributed to our team winning games.

When you were on the Detroit Pistons, Kyrie Irving was a rookie in the NBA. He gave you credit for introducing him to the NBA and eventually went on to become an All-Star and NBA Champion. Talk about how you reflect on that experience now.

I mentioned before how many good players there are in the league, and I was not concerned with which opponents were in front of me in order to stay focused.

It did not matter if my opponent went first overall, or thirty-fifth. That was always my mentality. I was actually surprised when Kyrie said that about me and that he even remembered that game.

That game was great for me, and that was part of some of my best years. That game represented my mindset and work ethic in that I was competing hard every night.

That’s how you gain respect in this league. It’s not about putting up crazy numbers, it’s more about how you play and compete.

Matias Bueno Matias's Final Thoughts

It was an absolute pleasure to speak with one of the most beloved point guards to have suited up for the Toronto Raptors. Jose Calderon became a fan favourite in Toronto because of his team oriented attitude, hard work ethic and ability to produce efficiently. All of these traits showed in our conversation together. With Calderon having been my favourite Raptors player growing up, it makes sense why he was able to have such a long career in the NBA. Having played with and against so many great players, he upped his game rapidly after coming to the league in 2005. He played an integral role in continuing the surge of international talent coming overseas from Europe to dominate the point guard position. Jose Calderon is a class act and continues to positively impact the game in his work with the NBA Player’s Association. 

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