Ford back in driver's seat

MIKE GANTER

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

Raptors point guard T.J. Ford returned to the starting five last night for the first time since Jan. 19.

He longer feels the pain in his sore right ankle that took him out of the lineup until a Jan. 31 game against the Washington Wizards and had him coming off the bench since then.

Calderon returned for that Washington game but Ford told head coach Sam Mitchell to stay with Jose Calderon as the starter.

Calderon filled in nicely during his absence and Ford said he didn't want to hurt the team by changing things up when the team was playing so well.

In the four games he played off the bench, Ford and Calderon were a dynamic duo, combining for 20 or more assists on two occasions and 19 on another.

As good as Calderon played, Mitchell said now that Ford is healthy again it's automatic that he starts.

"T.J. is feeling good and he's going to play like he did before he got hurt," Mitchell said.

"We need T.J. back to playing like he was playing for us to have the best chance to win. He's feeling better and it's time for us to put him back out there."

VINCE STILL KEEPING TABS

Vince Carter may be long gone from Toronto, but he still keeps an eye on his old club.

And despite trailing the Raptors in the standings believes his New Jersey Nets will ultimately wind up winning the Atlantic.

In an article in yesterday's Newark Star-Ledger, Carter suggested his Nets might be down now but it won't be that way at the end of the season.

"They're playing well right now, and they just might get better," Carter is quoted in the article.

"But I'm telling you, there's still a lot of season left. I believe in our team, regardless of how we've played lately. We might not look like we have the confidence they have, but I'll tell you, I still have confidence in us. And people better know that I'm going to go down fighting until the last day. I'm going to fight until the last day, and so are the rest of the guys in here.

"I believe in every one of them, and I believe in our coaching staff. I believe we're going to be the ones (winning the division) in the end."

HOT TICKET

The Raptors rise up the standings is starting to make inroads at the box office.

This past week, the Raptors sold 13,191 tickets, their best in-season sales week in team history.

The only week in which they have sold more was August of 2001, right after Carter signed his extension.


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