The Raptors have picked up a Ford to drive the team.
Just prior to the opening of the free agent negotiation period at midnight, the Raptors landed a much-needed point guard late last night, acquiring fleet-footed T.J. Ford, 23, from the Milwaukee Bucks for forward Charlie Villanueva, the runner-up in NBA rookie of the year voting last year.
The move, which also netted Toronto an undisclosed amount of cash, was the latest in a series of transactions by first-year Raptors president/general manager Bryan Colangelo, who has overhauled the roster in the past month.
"Charlie is a terrific young man and was a great fit for the community and a great fit for this team," said Colangelo, who first asked about Ford at an NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando last month and received a call from the Bucks regarding him during the draft on Wednesday. "But in the end, we're trying to put together a more complete basketball team."
Ford, picked eighth in the same 2003 draft that saw Chris Bosh go to the Raptors, averaged 12.6 points and 6.4 assists last year. Colangelo said Ford responded well to the trade when contacted by the Bucks. He specializes in the fast-paced offence that Colangelo desires in Toronto. Ford has one year left on his contract before the Raptors have to make him a qualifying offer.
"He really pushes the ball up the floor," Colangelo said. "He's lightning-quick with great playmaking ability. He's a perfect fit for the type of team we'd like to become."
Ford suffered a career-threatening contusion of his spinal cord Feb. 24, 2003. He missed the entire 2004-05 season, but made a complete recovery. Colangelo said he talked to Ford's surgeon and Raptors doctor Paul Marks before making the deal. Both gave Ford a clean bill of health.
With the Raptors selecting 7-footer Andrea Bargnani with the first pick in the draft and the trade for centre Rasho Nesterovic last week, the team suddenly had depth in the frontcourt, putting Villanueva on the market.
"There were doubts when (Villanueva) was picked by Toronto and now he's going to try to show that Toronto made the worst trade in the history of sport," Billy Ceisler, Villanueva's agent, said. "I told him (about the trade) and we kind of giggled a little bit and we both kind of said, 'That's all they got for (Villanueva)."
Colangelo said he also wants to add a combo guard to complement Ford.