There are growing concerns that the series of arm and back injuries, called stingers, suffered by Raptors starting point guard T.J. Ford could eventually force his early retirement.
Ford suffered another stinger-like injury on Tuesday night in Atlanta, the third such injury since last year's opening-round of the playoffs, and the second one this season.
"It's a situation that you worry about all the time," admitted Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo. "(But) let's hope that this is just a series of unusual circumstances that have led to him having these symptoms."
Ford was released yesterday morning from Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta and joined his teammates on the bench last night as the Raptors defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 92-76.
After the Atlanta game, he underwent a battery of tests (X-rays, CT scan and an MRI) which were all negative. He will be reassessed by Raptors medical personnel.
Ford, who was greeted to a standing ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the Air Canada Centre scoreboard in the second quarter last night, has a history of neck and spinal cord injuries.
The Houston native missed the entire 2004-05 season after undergoing neck surgery and had already missed five games this season with an arm stinger after falling during a game on Nov. 20 in Dallas.
He also suffered a stinger in Game 5 in the first round of playoffs against New Jersey last season, prompting the concerns about his future, concerns that Ford insisted are premature, adding that he would not come back and play if he was putting himself at an unreasonable risk for a serious injury.
"I'm definitely at a higher risk than anybody in the NBA, and that fact has never changed," he said. "(But) I felt that (if I was in danger of suffering a serious injury), I don't think I would play. I have a son that I definitely want to be able to play with. I don't think I could live with not being able to do a lot of things with him. So if it gets to that point I definitely would (give it up)."
Ford acknowledged that the problems with his arms and his back (spinal cord) are incurable, but he believes by strengthening his body each season, he cuts the risk, adding that he is strong enough to handle the adversity. Ford believes that the man upstairs may be testing him.
"(If he is) he's doing that to the right person, somebody who can definitely handle the pain and the situation mentally," said Ford. "Because I don't think a lot of people could go through what I go through."
Ford went down hard after being fouled by Al Horford in Toronto's 100-88 victory over the Hawks and spent the night in the hospital with sore arms and shoulders. Horford was issued a flagrant II foul, but Ford was not feeling any ill-will last night.
"It wasn't a dirty play at all. I think I kind of tricked him with the move and he got caught in a bad spot trying to block a shot," said Ford. "He's a good kid. He came to the hospital (after the game) and spent two hours there, just laughing and joking and talking about basketball. He didn't do anything wrong."
No time frame has been established for a return. Ford is currently second on the Raptors in scoring (14.1) and assists (6.8) per game.