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|Dallas Mavericks newcomer Jose Calderon has thrived by finding a new opening in Spain's backcourt.|
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- The Dallas Mavericks don't have a true center on their roster for next season. Jose Calderon says if that's where Rick Carlisle wants him to play, then that's where he'll be.
The Spaniard figures to be the primary point guard in Dallas after signing a four-year contract as a free agent this offseason following his departure from Detroit. But he'll be coming off a summer when he's had a different look, used by his national team as a shooting guard, mostly in tandem with Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It's not been an entirely easy transition for the 31-year-old, who has been an assist-first playmaker ever since he began his career in the ACB League in his teens. However, with Spain trying to defend its EuroBasket title in Slovenia without the services of FC Barcelona gunner Juan Carlos Navarro, Calderon is learning a few new tricks.
"I like to do that in every team I'm in," he said. "You have to know your role. But you need everybody to win games. You can't win by yourself -- not in the NBA, not in Europe, not in Spain. If you've got a teammate around you, you know sometimes they're going to score, sometimes you're going to pass the ball or you won't win games -- unless you're Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. And even then, they need a good team around them."
Calderon's increasing comfort in his new position shone through Saturday in what was a vital game for Spain in the second round of the championships against Finland. Needing to win to avoid being pushed to the brink of elimination, the Mavs newcomer had a game-high 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting in an 82-56 rout of the Finns.
The defending champions' defense, anchored by NBA All-Star Marc Gasol, has never been in question. However, it was a timely offensive boost from someone who would still, you sense, rather be creating for others.
"It's not easy when you've played all the time at the 1 position," Calderon said. "But it's about the team. This is what my team needs right now. I want to win. Today, I was the scorer. Maybe the next day we don't need me scoring. I just play basketball and try to do the best for the team.
"If I have to play 5, I'll play 5. That's what we've been doing for years in the Spanish team. We're different here to what we're doing in our teams, and that's why our team is successful."
Rubio had just four points and one assist, while Spain's third playmaker, former NBA and current Real Madrid player Sergio Rodriguez, added nine points and three assists.
Navarro, along with Lakers forward Pau Gasol, is expected to return for next summer's FIBA World Cup, which will be held in their homeland. For now, Spain coach Juan Orenga must juggle the talents he has at his disposal.
"We have an opportunity to play in a different way," Orenga said. "We have four point guards. It's not just Ricky and Calderon, We have Sergio Rodriguez playing at the point as well.
"So when we play two of them together, we can play faster, we can play pick-and-roll on both sides. They can shoot. So it gives us a different speed."
Spain meets Italy in its final second-round game Monday in Ljubljana.