03-06-2008, 10:09 AM
is pounding the rock!
Byte Mii, I have Wii Fit!
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Toronto, Canada
TJ Starting to Crack under Pressure...
Toronto Star LINK
Back-up job leaves Ford in a funk
MIAMI–Less than an hour before tipoff last night, the visitors' locker room was gripped with a minor mystery: The whereabouts of T.J. Ford appeared to be in doubt.
"Where is he?" one teammated wondered.
"Is he here?" asked another.
The only sign of Ford was a clean uniform hanging in his locker above a pile of his personal effects. While most of his colleagues had already broken their pre-game sweat, Ford had yet to disrobe from his street clothes. Shrugs were shared. Heads were shook. Observations were made.
"He ain't going nowhere without that backpack," said Joey Graham, pointing to Ford's Louis Vuitton carryall.
It turned out Ford was not a flight risk à la Rafer Alston, the former Raptor who threatened to quit the game after his feelings were hurt a few seasons back. But Ford did spend more than an hour in a pair of pre-game meetings, one with Mark Eversley, the club's director of basketball operations, another with Sam Mitchell, the head coach.
"I had some personal issues I had to attend to," said Ford. "I don't think that's going to affect (the game), though. I'm good."
What issues? He wouldn't elaborate. But while Ford has said publicly he is comfortable with Jose Calderon as the starting point guard, he hasn't exactly acted as though he's at peace. Calderon got the job when Ford went down with injuries that have kept him out of 31 of the team's 60 games; Calderon has remained the starter in the month or so since Ford's return.
If his body language in the couple of games before last night had been translated into words, you'd have shielded your kids' ears. Tuesday in Orlando, non-plussed he'd been hooked from the game, Ford made a 20-foot walk to the bench look more like a procession to the electric chair. It wasn't the only outward expression of his discontent.
"T.J.'s a good guy. He's a good person," said Darrick Martin, Ford's fellow point guard. "He's just working through some issues and he'll be fine."
Perhaps drama was inevitable. It was said in this space and others that Toronto's point-guard platoon worked last season and at the beginning of this one largely because Ford was the starter. His ego, it was surmised here, wouldn't take well to being a No. 2. And that wasn't necessarily a knock against him.
Still, it'll be difficult to upturn the batting order now, because Ford isn't necessarily the guy the Raptors are worried about ticking off. Calderon, playing awfully well in the first five, is heading into a summer in which he'll be a presumably-coveted restricted free agent, and the Raptors have repeatedly asserted their desire to keep him. Ford, locked up through 2011, might have to live with the status quo.
The Texan, who often carries himself on the court with scowling swagger that belies his locker-room sense of humour, hasn't had an easy season. He was taken off the floor in Atlanta on a stretcher after a dastardly December fall. Born with a narrowing of the spine that puts him at greater risk for spinal injuries than an average person, the scare had him contemplating retirement before he committed to a return to the court.
Last night he played 22 largely scowl-free minutes, scoring 13 points while racking up five assists and three turnovers. He acknowledged his behavior was drawing the wrong kind of attention from certain superiors, but he didn't exactly apologize for it.
"I guess that's the knock against me, man," said Ford. "I think I'm an emotional person. But I think people look at me like I have a problem sometimes, when I really don't. I'm fine."