At some point next season, new Knick point guard Derrick Rose will hear boos. Even if everything goes dreamily and Rose regains his All-Star form, and the Knicks sign him to a deal beyond 2017, there will be boos, even if only in response to the team rather than Rose himself. The memes have already begun. Patrick Ewing was booed. Yankee fans once booed Mariano Rivera, which is like plants booing the sun. The year the Mets acquired Mike Piazza, he hit .348 with 23 home runs. In two-thirds of a season. He got booed, too.
Jose Calderon was booed early and often during his Knick tenure. I could give you reasons. Over a nine-year career before playing in New York, he was a historic marksman, yet he never shot as poorly as he did his two years at MSG. His assist rate was easily his lowest ever. Calling him a sieve on defense is an insult to colanders everywhere; at least they're supposed to let things go. You, the person reading this sentence, blew by as many defenders as Calderon the past two seasons. For all his subpar play, the man pocketed $14,500,000.
So is that why we booed Jose Calderon? For not being able to do the things a self-aware man in his mid-30s knows he can't do? For being miscast as a pass-first starter on a team short of scorers and shooters? He's been traded multiple times, times he and his family have had to uproot or separate with no say in the matter. In fact, he's been traded multiple times just this summer, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles, a big-market syzygy if ever there were. As he told the Post's Marc Berman, "I was ready for a different role. I was ready for a different role the last couple of years. Maybe there wasn't the player to put ahead of me." Calderon replaced Raymond Felton, a player traded four times in four years by four teams, who no one misses and who wasn't exactly on the shortlist for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship award by the time the Knicks shed him.
Do we boo players because they're there to boo? Half of Calderon's time in New York the team was tanking. The Knicks are, by my count, on at least their fourth rebuild of the century. Do we boo Calderon because James Dolan isn't ever on the Jumbotron to boo? Do we boo Calderon because Phil Jackson promised to change the culture around the Knicks, then looked into the abyss, decided the press is the enemy, and removed himself from public exposure (unless it's Twitter or Charley Rosen book leaks)? Do we boo Calderon because to be a fan of the NBA - a recession-proof cash machine that revolves around billionaires who think profit is something owed to them owning millionaires who've grown to think getting paid to play a kids' game is owed to them in front of fans who grow up thinking it's all owed to them - requires us to be unfair, too? When in Rome...
"I always said I wasn't the one putting me in the starting role or playing me 35 minutes," Calderon told Berman. "It could've been a guy like a Derrick Rose and I would've been the backup point guard. It's a tough position to play. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses. I've been in the league 12 years and I know what I do best or not do as well. It's nothing personal. It's what the team needed." The Knicks needed a point guard. They had little cap room and few assets that would appeal in a trade. They made a change. They may not have ultimately wanted Jose Calderon. But in that little slice of spacetime, they needed a change, and he was a change. So they needed him.
Fan bases luxuriate in their misery. You have to be privileged to have the time and energy to really truly deeply give a shit about sports. Same as being obsessed with celebrity gossip tabloids like Star or The National Enquirer, or playing Pokemon Go - even if they're escapes, at least you have escapes. Spoiler: New York fans are really no different than other fans. I'm as guilty as anyone of ranting about the Knicks' failures. Yet Cleveland just won their first title ever. A year ago, Golden State won their first in 40 years. The Celtics, one of the NBA's two great families, have won just one title in 30 years; the Lakers can't even get free agents to meet with them these days. Despite winning multiple lotteries and screwing the Knicks over in trade after trade, the Bulls haven't even reached the Finals since Michael Jordan was there. The Sixers haven't won in 33 years. Failure isn't personal. It's a tough league, one where luck and timing factor into outcomes as much if not more than wingspan and true shooting percentage. But the lightning rods are human as the rest of us. We don't boo lightning. That's absurd, we all know. Booing the victim of that bolt is an easier indulgence. Booing Jose Calderon is easier than holding institutions or time itself responsible. Is that why we boo?
"You can't compare my numbers to the other point guards," Calderon said. "I'm a different kind of player — if you like it or not. I play a certain way and played like that for a while. Maybe you want a point guard to shoot 20 times, I like more to pass the ball and do my job running the team. This guy only scores six points, another guy scores 30, but I'm not that kind of point guard. You can't compare my game to others.''
Sure I can. The Knicks moved Calderon to bring in Rose, a point guard who plays a certain way, who's more likely to score 30; Rose averaged as many assists per 36 minutes last year as Calderon with twice as many turnovers. He's also off the books in a year, which is as much as anything the reason he's a Knick. No matter how this season turns out, whether he returns in 2018 as a Knick, or in another uniform, or as a fan after retiring to protect his body's ability to attend future meetings and graduation ceremonies, Rose will be booed in New York. When it happens, he'll hopefully maintain the healthy perspective Calderon shows toward his treatment in Gotham. Enjoy L.A., Jose. Won't miss your game. Will miss your humanity, yo. Thanks for thinking.