Admittedly rusty in his first game of the season, Jose Calderon was fine with being a spectator for most of the second half.
With the Knicks comfortably ahead of the hapless Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night en route to only their second win in 11 games, the point guard even joked with his new teammates about his lack of endurance, assuring everyone that the real version of him will emerge soon enough.
According to Iman Shumpert, Calderon said to his Knicks teammates on the bench: "I know you guys want some lobs, but I don't got it yet."
Facing the winless 76ers proved to be a welcome reintroduction to the speed of an NBA game for Calderon after missing nearly five weeks because of a calf injury. But if the Knicks are going to carry over any positive momentum from their much-needed 91-83 victory over Philadelphia, Calderon knows he needs to get his game up to speed fast.
Monday night, the Knicks begin a three-game, five-day road trip in Houston, and Calderon will get right to work trying to be, in coach Derek Fisher's words, "a guy that bonds people together." Given the Knicks' struggles getting to know the triangle offense, a heady point guard is their most pressing need.
"Jose is a smart guy who knows how to run a team, especially an offense like this," Carmelo Anthony said. "He can shoot the ball, spread the court, but most important, his IQ out there on the basketball court is very high. That's something that at that position, we've been missing."
Anthony acknowledged that some of his best individual seasons have occurred while playing alongside established point guards. He specifically mentioned Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups in Denver and the season with Jason Kidd as a Knicks teammate.
So he's eager to see how he'll do alongside the 33-year-old Calderon, the guy team president Phil Jackson acquired over the offseason with their triangle offense in mind.
"I love it, man," Anthony said. "I don't think there's anything like playing with great PGs."
Acquired from Dallas during the offseason in the deal involving Tyson Chandler, Calderon is a career 41 percent shooter on threes while averaging 10.2 points and 6.8 assists. It's no surprise that Fisher believes Calderon will slide right in to the role of "facilitator" on the court.
Calderon looked the part early Saturday night, but he quickly became gassed and was fine with taking a seat on the bench for longer than usual. But most importantly for the Knicks, Calderon said his calf wasn't a problem, and now he looks forward to the day when thoughts of reinjuring it are gone.
"At the beginning, it's always going to be a little scary out there when you're pushing it at 100 percent," he said. "It's always going to be in your mind for a while."
Given the Knicks' struggles this season, the mere sight of Calderon on the court was a positive, even if he wasn't quite his old self. They know that will come soon enough.
For now, this version of their new point guard will do just fine. "For our morale as a team," Anthony said, "it's good to see him out there."