Jose Calderon is laughing after a recent practice. In his second training camp with the Knicks, the always pleasant point guard is in a better mood.
Calderon feels better physically and mentally, which seems to mirror the Knicks as a whole. Calderon's first season in New York also mirrored his team: He was banged up, disappointing and an underachiever.
"I feel better," Calderon said. "The atmosphere, the environment, everything is different for whatever reason. I'm really comfortable, maybe knowing what the coaches want, what the system is, the people. You know everybody and you know how everybody is, what they want from you.
"It's totally different. It was a tough season, so I'm really happy and more comfortable just being healthy and being able to be a little bit more free. It's all of that together."
Throughout the Knicks' West Point training camp, which ended Saturday, the players and coach Derek Fisher have talked about how much more relaxed everyone seems. Fisher has praised this group's "character" and "professional mindset."
That could be viewed as knocks against three players whom president Phil Jackson jettisoned on the same day (Jan. 5): J.R. Smith, Samuel Dalembert and Iman Shumpert. They haven't been mentioned specifically, but Fisher said one reason he expects Calderon to have a better season is because he likes his teammates.
"I think he's enjoying the way our roster's constructed," Fisher said. "These are the type of guys that when you have the makeup that Jose has, there are certain guys that you enjoy playing with, certain guys that maybe not so much.
"As the leader of a team, it's important to feel like you can lead a group. But that group has to be willing to follow. And I think Jose feels good, like we have a group of guys that will follow the leader."
"We have a really good group of guys: veterans, professionals that know how to play basketball," he said. "I think we have the pieces to be a really good basketball team. We just have to keep working. Maybe it's that too why I feel comfortable. I think the guys we signed make me feel comfortable as a point guard."
Calderon, 34, played a career-low 42 games for the 17-65 Knicks, missing the first 13 with a calf strain and the final 26 with an Achilles injury. He averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 assists and shot 41.5 percent. Entering last season, the unselfish Spanish guard's career averages were 10.2 points and 6.8 assists, and he shot 47.9 percent.
The Knicks acquired him from Dallas in the Tyson Chandler deal in the belief that Calderon was the right fit and had the makeup to run the triangle offense. His name came up a lot in trade rumors throughout the season, but the Knicks held on to him and brought him back.
Another reason Fisher believes Calderon will be more impactful is that he skipped playing for the Spanish National team in EuroBasket 2015 over the summer to make sure he was healthy.
"I think he's been able to focus more on who is he and not necessarily about the team, team, team," Fisher said. "So I think he's maybe a little bit of a better player coming back than maybe he has been in the last couple of years just concentrating on his own game.''
Calderon said, "If you look at the numbers [last year], for sure I didn't play as I usually do. I don't know if the numbers this year are going to be better or not, but I think I can help more."