Healthy again

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

It was a game which the Raptors would best forget as soon as possible, but that spanking the Phoenix Suns put on them Wednesday night did serve one purpose.

The first and most immediate dividend the Raptors will take from that game is the fact that point guard T.J. Ford is back to full health. Whether that means he immediately resumes his starting role will be determined in part by Sam Mitchell but ultimately decided by Ford himself tonight when the Raps get a second crack at the Boston Celtics.

"We'll see how he feels," Mitchell said. "If he comes to me and says he's ready to start, then he'll start. It's always going to be my decision but it's going to go by how he tells me he feels."

Ford didn't sound concerned either way.

"Whenever coaches make that decision, it's fine with me," Ford said. "Right now I'm just accepting the role they have me in and whenever they feel it's necessary, I'll take on that (starting) role. Right now I just try to come in and make plays and do whatever it takes to get the lead or keep the lead."

As good as Jose Calderon has played in the starter's role since Ford was injured, Mitchell's comment reinforces the team's stance that Ford is the Raps' starting point guard as long as he's healthy.

Ford's return is key because for the third game in a row, the Raps will be without the services of both Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani. Neither Bosh (groin strain) nor Bargnani (hyper-extended knee) even went to Boston, with both staying behind in Toronto for extra medical treatment.

Ford back operating at full speed at least gives the Raps one of their three offensive catalysts to take into Boston.

But as Ford will tell you, offence hasn't been the Raps' problem of late, certainly not Wednesday against the Suns.

Their problem, in case the 136 points Phoenix scored didn't spell it out for everyone, is on defence.

"We know we can put up points," Ford said. "We just have to come out and do a better job of playing defence. (Boston) doesn't use pick-and-rolls as much as Phoenix and spread the floor as much, so we should be able to do a better job of being in our right rotations."

Ford still was wearing the bandage on his thumb yesterday but said it's no longer a problem.

"I'm used to playing with my thumb wrapped up," he said. "It's just to protect my hand."

Against the Suns, Ford was decisive in running the Raptors' offence the way he was before he was knocked out of action by Mavericks forward Josh Howard on Nov. 20.

His next test, the 15-2 Celtics.


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