So the Raptors
are switching up the starting line up on a couple of fronts and one of the moves was instigated or initiated by the man who will now find himself on the bench.
These kind of situations simply don’t happen in professional sports. They’re very rare. But then again, Jose Calderon
is a rare breed to begin with.
Calderon sat down with Bryan Colangelo and Sam Mitchell on Tuesday and basically said (I’m paraphrasing / speculating ) … ‘Let TJ start. Move me back to the bench. We’ve got to find a way to get TJ going and it’s clear that he just hasn’t had ‘it’ as a back-up. Let’s go back to the way it was - for the betterment of the team - and see if we can get things back on track for the final 12 games of the season’.
Colangelo and Mitchell agreed … and that was that. Effective immediately, TJ Ford will be reinserted into the Raptors
starting line up. Calderon
will return to his back-up role; a job he had when the season began and throughout last season as well.
While he was outstanding for most of his time as a starter (struggling a bit over the last couple of weeks (like the entire team has)), Calderon
has proven time and time again that he can be effective in either role. He seems just as comfortable with the 2ND unit as he does with the starters. But the same can’t be said for Ford. When TJ finally returned after missing 24 games, he never really seemed to adjust to his back-up role. He seemed confused at the best of times; struggling with when to be a distributor and facilitator … and when to be an attacker and dominator.
Ford was, arguably, the best Raptor on the floor for the first month of the season. Before he got hammered by Al Horford in Atlanta - and contemplated retirement - Ford was playing some of the best ball of his career. And he was coming off a hugely-successful 2006-07 campaign as well … when he and Chris Bosh
led the Raptors
to a franchise-high 47 wins and the Raptors
first-ever Atlantic Division Championship. In returning to the starting line up, the hope is that Ford can find that magic touch again and finally return to form.
Ford isn’t the only change though. Rasho Nesterovic will be back in the starting unit … replacing Andrea Bargnani. As I wrote the other day, Bargnani
has regressed this season. If you’re not moving forward - even if you’re simply standing still - you’re regressing in my eyes. However, I still believe Bargnani
can be a special player. His growth process may simply take longer than others. So why not allow the guy to take those baby steps off the bench as opposed to ‘in the fire’ as a starter?
Nesterovic provides the Raptors
with a lot of size, solid rebounding and defence, and veteran experience that Toronto could use in their final 12 games and into the post-season (no matter who they face). His presence amongst the starters allows Bargnani
to come in against 2ND unit guys now - like he did last year. If Bargnani
comes in and he’s hot … you stick with him. If not, you know you always have Rasho to go back to … and options like Kris Humphries as well.
Some folks may be critical of these moves - especially Ford going in for Calderon
- but clearly something had to be done. After losing 7 of their last 8 and suffering through a TERRIBLE month of March, a shake-up was needed. While there were rumblings about making a move with Jamario Moon (for Carlos Delfino), the rookie swingman has answered his critics with some outstanding play - especially on the glass - over the past week or two. Thus, the most obvious place to make a change was at the point - where you have a solid 1-2 punch - or at the center spot … where you have a vet (Rasho) who is ready to go whenever he’s needed.
Best case scenario … this change ignites the Raps and they finish their final 12 games on a high note and they have momentum going into the post-season.
Worst case scenario … TJ still doesn’t break out of his funk and Mitchell is forced to go back to Calderon
We’ll see how it all plays out … beginning with the Pistons and Raptors
tonight at 7pm on the FAN.