Jose Calderon’s absence being felt by Knicks

Shane Larkin
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The Knicks have been uneven so far this young season, which should be expected considering there’s a new regime, new system and a host of new players.

And for all of Carmelo Anthony’s usual excellence and how well holdovers like Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert have played so far, something is obviously missing – such as a steadying force on the floor like injured point guard Jose Calderon, who is a perfect fit for Derek Fisher’s Triangle offense.

“We’re hopeful to get him back in a couple weeks,” Fisher said about Calderon, who wasn’t available for comment after Tuesda y night’s loss. “Him missing is a big impact [and] we’d love to have him back soon, obviously. He’s a great, veteran presence — not just with his poise and composure, but his grasp of what we’re trying to do.”

The veteran Calderon will miss up to three weeks with a calf injury, and his absence has been felt, if not in subtle ways. New York (2-2) dropped its second home game this season Tuesday night to the Wizards (3-1), and while Calderon’s career 10.2 points per game may not have made a difference in the 98-83 outcome, it’s his poise, deft passing and creative ways to get off shots that’s been missed.

The Knicks have faced a murderer’s row of point guards in their first four games, including Derek Rose of the Bulls, Kyrie Irving of the Cavs, Kemba Walker of the Hornets and John Wall of the Wizards.

“That’s the toughest part of this early on, trying to figure out what we do best,” said Fisher. “We’re still trying to trust each other and know that things will work out. We can’t revert to old habits.”

Fill-ins, like rookie Shane Larkin and Shumpert, haven’t been a total trainwreck at the lead-guard position, but they’re not natural fits. Larkin has been a career backup so far, while Shumpert is a natural swingman.Larkin has looked good in spurts, starting every game so far, and averaging a respectable 7.9 points, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game, while shooting 47 percent from the field and 40 percent on 3-pointers. And Shumpert seems to be fitting into the new offense nicely — sporting career-highs in points per game and field goal percentage.

But they’re not what Fisher would consider the ideal guy to run the offense.

The Knicks looked sloppy against the Wizards by committing 18 turnovers (Anthony had a game-high seven), and sported a lackluster assist-to-made-field-goals ratio of just 16 helpers on 30 makes.

“[The Wizards] did the same thing that Chicago did [in the opener] by being aggressive. We just didn’t make the right reads and adjust well ourselves,” said Larkin. “We have to figure it out. But it’s only game four, and we’ll watch the film and adjust.”

Having a guy like Calderon to steady the ship is pertinent to any offense — specifically the Triangle. The offense is predicated on the ball-handler reading the options, playing off cutters and getting guys in the right spots.

The aforementioned qualities were exactly what made another under-appreciated veteran point guard look so good, on Tuesday. Wall might’ve been underwhelming in going 5-of-11 for 11 points, but his backup, Andre Miller, was to Washington what New York fans hope to see in Calderon. Miller tallied 12 points in 17 minutes of action and expertly controlled the tempo.

Calderon, the Spanish national team star, is a career 41-percent marksman on 3-pointers and sports a robust 3.5 assist-to-turnover ratio, which means the Knicks would rather have his services sooner than later.

“Teams have upped their pressure and got more aggressive, and really got into our guys even more,” said Fisher. “It’s causing us more problems than we know and we need to adjust better.”

Knicks notes …

» A sure sign that point-guard leadership is lacking can be found in the 18 turnovers committed by New York. The Knicks entered the game averaging 12.8 in their first three games.

» Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup, Tim Hardaway Jr. had played a total of 15 minutes, as he’s had a difficult time transition into Fisher’s offense. Hardaway managed to play 11 minutes, but scored just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting.

» Fisher said Quincy Acy (wrist) was available, but decided against playing him, saying it’s a “long season and we’ll need him for the overhaul.”

» The Knicks are now 0-2 with Stoudemire as a starter and 2-0 with him coming off the bench.

Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.

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