Are Raptors now paying the price?
February 06, 2009
Raptors point guard Jose Calderon walked into the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room Wednesday night and the expressions of affection never seemed to cease.
Before the conclusion of Calderon's short catch-up with fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol, the whole of Gasol's 7-foot-5 wingspan was wrapped around Calderon's personage. The friends swapped handshakes, Euro-chic kisses on the cheek and old-fashioned slaps on the back.
Such is the bond Calderon shares with his mates on Spain's national Olympic team. And as heartwarming a bromance as it is, it's conceivable it has cost the Raptors a full-strength point guard for the majority of this disappointing season.
Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said yesterday that Calderon, who missed Wednesday's loss to the Lakers with the sore right hamstring that has kept him out of 13 games this season, is expected to play tonight in New Orleans.
Chris Bosh, Toronto's all-star forward who sprained his right knee Wednesday, will travel with the team but will not be in the lineup.
Perhaps both Calderon and Bosh would be healthy today if they hadn't spent the summer chasing an Olympic gold medal in China.
While Bosh has played all 51 of Toronto's games, his production has fallen off considerably as the season has worn on. There have been whispers he has hit a post-Great Wall wall.
Calderon, who signed a five-year, $45 million (U.S.) contract extension this summer, has been asked to play more minutes than he has ever played as a pro in the wake of an Olympic tourney in which he suffered a groin strain. Is it any wonder he has missed a quarter of his team's games to injury while playing most of the rest hobbled by one?
Colangelo, a member of the U.S. national team hierarchy headed by his father Jerry, disputed the Bosh hypothesis, saying the U.S. program builds in sufficient recovery time. But he quibbled less with the idea that Calderon's dogged dedication to Spain has been behind the point guard's painful season.
While Bosh has played for his country two of the past three summers, Calderon, at age 27, has been a loyal annual servant to King Juan Carlos for more than a decade.
"I just think at some point, yes, that would be a fatiguing process," said Colangelo of Calderon's year-round schedule.
This hardly is a quandary isolated to Raptorland, although Canadian hoop fans have been stung by both sides of it. Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns has refused to represent Canada for the past handful of summers, citing, among many reasons, the need for rest to remain at his NBA best.
That's a brainwave that apparently has yet to occur to Calderon, who missed the gold-medal game in Beijing, in which Bosh's U.S. squad prevailed over Spain, to tend to his ailing groin.
Still, there have been intimations within the club that the reality of Calderon's hamstring injury – that it won't fully heal until he gets a long, uninterrupted break from the game – has him seriously pondering his first idle summer as a pro.
Otherwise, he'll be committed to Spain's run at the European championship, with training camp beginning in July and the Poland-based competition not concluding until Sept.20, less than two weeks before the start of NBA training camp.
Surely the Raptors would be all for their $45 million investment sitting out the hot months, even if Colangelo is loathe to blame the NBA's commitment to the global game for a season gone wrong.
"Chris Paul (the U.S. Olympic point guard who plays for the Hornets) pulled his groin the other day. Is that related? I don't know. Nobody knows," said Colangelo.
"Some guys train year-round, maybe take one week off and get right back in the gym and don't stop. Some guys never touch a basketball, and then come back and get injured for that reason, too.
"There's no way to know." TheStar.com - Sports - Are Raptors now paying the price?