By David Mayo | firstname.lastname@example.org
on February 28, 2013 at 6:57 PM
NEW ORLEANS -- Jose Calderon will become one of the Detroit Pistons' first orders of offseason business after 22 more regular-season games, during which his ability to mesh with his teammates -- and their ability to mesh with him -- will benefit from something they haven't done together much: practice.
Calderon's value was underscored again in his most recent game, a victory Wednesday at Washington, when he became the only Piston besides Isiah Thomas with as many as 18 assists and as few as two turnovers in the same game since 1974.
And when he committed those two turnovers in the final minute of a one-point win, the Pistons learned something else about the point guard who has played less than a month with them.
"The first thing he did, walking in (to the locker room), he goes, 'My fault, my fault,'" Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said.
Frank noted one other thing about Calderon, too.
"We haven't seen the best of him because I think he's still trying to figure everyone out," he said.
Since Calderon was acquired in the Jan. 30 trade that sent Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to Memphis, he endured a work-visa delay that didn't allow him to play or practice his first weekend with the team, costing him two games, and has played in 12 others.
Practice has been another story. The compact February schedule plus the All-Star break left the Pistons with just three practices with Calderon, the most recent one Thursday.
"We've been doing it just through games," Calderon said. "Practice time is really important so we can talk and we can figure out things. It's been tough."
Not having all his personnel has enhanced the degree of difficulty.
Andre Drummond was injured before Calderon was cleared to play and participated only briefly in two games, then not at all in the last 10, since the Pistons got their point guard.
Brandon Knight missed three games with a knee injury, all unsightly losses, before returning Wednesday at Washington and sparking the Pistons' transition offense in a career-high 32-point night.
All of that has conspired against Calderon blending with the Pistons as the season approaches the three-quarters mark this weekend.
There's a lot of cleaning up to do and plenty of practice opportunities -- anywhere from 12-15, depending how Frank spaces days off -- in the final seven weeks.
"They need to know that this is what I want to do when I go this way, or that's what I want to do when I go that way," Calderon said. "It's just about talking, take a look here, do this just in case -- that kind of stuff."
Greg Monroe said the necessary tweaks are "nothing extravagant or special we have to do, just get the timing together."
"Everybody in the league knows how good Jose is as far as setting up his teammates and getting other people open shots," Monroe said.
The Washington game was the clearest example yet since Calderon joined the Pistons, when seven of his assists went to Monroe, four of them for layups.
"Just rolling, catch the ball, put it in the basket," Monroe said. "He made it easy."
Calderon's acquisition also meant moving Brandon Knight to shooting guard, a weighty decision related to the second-year player. Knight received six of Calderon's assists against the Wizards and generally has adjusted well to the position switch, largely because of his new teammate's rare floor vision and the transition offense they spark together.
"As Brandon adjusts on the run and Jose does a very good job of finding him and trying to get him in his spots, I think they'll continue to develop a comfort zone with each other," Frank said. "But it takes time."
The Calderon trade created even more financial flexibility for the Pistons going into the summer trade and free-agency season but Joe Dumars, the team's president of basketball operations, has made it clear that Calderon is not just any player on an expiring contract which pays a base salary of about $11 million this year.
Dumars has said he is interested in re-signing Calderon but neither side will discuss much beyond that; the Pistons won't break the bank to keep Calderon and he isn't painting himself into a negotiating corner by vowing to stay.
It's very much a toss-up, not unlike the adjustments Calderon and his new teammates must make toward each other.
"It's 50-50," Calderon said of where the burden lies in meshing with his teammates, and vice versa. "It's got to be both ways, for sure."