Jose Calderon says Mavs are close to building title contender

DALLAS — Ending his first season as a Dallas Maverick with a feeling of incompletion, veteran point guard Jose Calderon immediately turned his attention to picking up where the team left off heading into next year.

Walking off the hardwood in disappointment after seeing the Mavericks fall in seven games to the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, Calderon didn’t wallow in his own sorrow for long. Instead, the Mavs’ starting point guard chose to look at the positives after the franchise returned to the playoffs for a 13th time in the last 14 seasons.

“Well, I think you’re always disappointed when the season ends. It doesn’t matter when,” Calderon confessed following the Mavs’ first-round exit. “It was tough. You always try to be positive about everything. … Nobody maybe gave us a chance to be in the playoffs. Nobody gave us [a chance] to get to seven games, so that’s the positive part. I think we’re close to being a really good team. I think we’re pretty close and we showed that in this series. We just need to play a little bit better and stay together, but at the end of the day we showed that we’re right there to compete against everybody in this league and to be a really good team.”

The pass-first Calderon played in 81 games this season, averaging 11.4 points and 4.7 assists an outing. He also scorched the nets from the outside, connecting on a team-best 44.9 percent from 3-point range.

Those numbers remained consistent during the Mavs’ playoff series against the rival Spurs, starting all seven games and averaging 10.3 points and 4.4 assists on 46.2 percent shooting and 47.8 percent from behind the arc. And despite finishing the season at the age of 32, Calderon says he and the rest of the Mavs’ veteran players still have plenty left to prove when next season tips off.

“I don’t think it’s old. I think we’ve got a perfect mix. It’s a great mix of young guys and veteran guys, and we showed that. You need veteran guys who know how to play, and we can get better for sure,” Calderon said of the Mavs’ roster.

Still, questions remain as the Mavericks enter the summer with six free agents set to hit the open market on July 1, including veteran leaders Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and reserve guard Devin Harris. However, with hopes of having this season’s squad remain intact, Calderon says the Mavs may be just a piece or two away from emerging as a contender for next year’s title.

“At the end of the day we showed we’re right there and we’re close,” Calderon confidently proclaimed. “We were in a seventh game with maybe the best team in the NBA. You’re always going to add a couple of pieces, but at the end of the day it’s just believing in the system and believing what we want to do. If you keep the core together, usually every year it’s going to get better.”