USA TODAY Sports
Jose Calderon has (FINALLY) been cleared to play. His first assignment -- slow down the New York Knicks.
Have you heard?
The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here! Jose Calderon is here! Jose Calderon is here! After days stuck in limbo with work visa issues, everything is in the past and Calderon has been cleared to play with his new team. How much will he play? Will he start or come off the bench? I don't know. But at least we're going to see some true point guard action.
Technically speaking, these two teams met in London on Jan. 17. More accurately, one team showed up, the New York Knicks and trounced the Detroit Pistons 102-87. And they didn't even have Amar'e Stoudemire back then. At the time, people were actually worried that Stoudemire, who had begun to look like damaged goods, would mess up the chemistry and effectiveness when he returned. That hasn't been the case.
Don't believe me? Just check out this recent Poasting and Toasting piece.
In the past 10 games Stoudemire is playing just 23 minutes per game but scoring a robust 15.4 points on an amazing 66 percent shooting. Oh yeah, and they still have Carmelo Anthony who is in the midst of the best season in his 10-year career.
The Knicks are a team, of course, even if people rarely look past their top players. And they have been so effective because they do a few key things extremely well. They limit to their opponents to one shot per possession, they force turnovers and don't turn the ball over themselves, and they hit the 3-ball extremely well. In their previous outing, they buried the Kings 120-81 behind a 21-point, 10-for-10 shooting night for Stoudemire.
But who cares about the Knicks when what we really want is our first glimpse at Calderon.
Keys to the Game
Dominate in the paint -- The one area where the Knicks are weak and the Pistons are strong is in the painted area. New York does very little damage in the paint -- mainly just Tyson Chandler slams and bunnies when defenses don't play him honest. They also give up a lot of paint points. This is a good sign for Greg Monroe on both ends, especially if Chandler is stuck guarding someone else (*cough, play Drummond, cough*).
Jose Calderon's minutes -- Even taking into account what must be a limited amount of practice time, I want to see Calderon get the bulk of the point guard minutes tonight. If he does, the Pistons have a chance to win. If he doesn't, we'll likely see a game similar to the one in London. Or one similar to the Pistons' last appearance at Madison Square Garden -- a 121-100 embarrassment.
Lobs. I want to see them -- This is sort of a combination of Key 1 and Key 2. But win or lose I just want to see a lot of lobs to Andre Drummond. He could electrify the MSG crowd like few visiting players.