T.J. Ford is retiring.
It was in 2006 when the Raptors traded away Charlie V to mortgage a big to fill in an immediate need in our Raptors squad. It would be the first in a whirlwind series of moves that Bryan Colangelo would make in his first summer as a GM. And while there was controversy at the time about the move, history would prove that T.J. Ford was much needed and an important part of the Raptors most successful regular season campaign.
Ford arguably had his most productive seasons in Toronto, with his highest assist average one year, and his highest shooting percentage the other.
However, there were always questions about Ford's durability and they came to a head one evening in Atlanta. With his first stinger as a Raptor, the staff started to move away from Ford and towards Calderon as the number one option. With a second stinger and a disgruntled Ford, the Raptors began to look for suitable trading partners.
With Ford's stingers, it was never a matter of if, just a matter of when.
And with yet another stinger this year after signing with the Spurs, T.J. Ford has decided to hang them up. As a player who gave his best night in and night out, and was an exciting spark, I'm glad he does it while on his own two feet and able to be a loving father to his children. The worst that could have happened was that Ford would push himself one too many times on to the court: That he'd never be able to stand on his own two feet again.
I'm glad he's retired before that could happen.
However, I'd say that the Raptors could definitely use Ford tonight as the Cavaliers are coming into town bringing in Rookie of the Year Candidate, Kyrie Irving. The Raptors have a commanding lead in the season series 2-0, but without Jose Calderon, Kyrie Irving is liable to run all over the Raptors. Toss in Tristan Thompson, and the Raptors will have their work cut out.
1) Jerryd Bayless in Control - How many times have we seen Jerryd Bayless dribble the ball up the court without any idea of what he wants to do with the ball? Against the Cavaliers who are strong at countering an attack, it'll mean a lot of fast break points the other way. Bayless has to concentrate on keeping a handle on Irving while also running the team in an effective manner. It's time for the growth that we've been expecting from Bayless all season.
2) Springs - As in jumping springs. Anyone who caught the earlier contests knows that the Raptors may not have the younger set of legs (and that's saying a lot considering how young our front court is) but what they don't have in youth, they more than make up in smarts. With Anderson Varajao out with a broken wrist, there's just no reason the Raptors to come out with a sloppy effort on the boards. That means both Amir Johnson and Ed Davis both have an easier job in manhandling a team they put their mark on earlier this year.
3) Bargnani Integration - While Sunday's performance was stronger for Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors need to make sure that Bargnani's earlier efficiency wasn't merely a 13 game blip that which the Big Italian has been known for in his career. I'd like to think that Bargnani has turned the corner, but I'd still like a larger sample size to say that the Raptors finally are realizing the potential of their 2006 #1 pick. Against a Cleveland team which has no suitable answers for him, he should be able to exert himself.