Injury scare won't slow down T.J.

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

A few weeks ago, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo expressed the hope that when T.J. Ford eventually returns to the lineup, he would perhaps play with a little less reckless abandon, if you will, and attempt to stay out of harm's way a little more often.

Ford is listed at 6-feet, 165 pounds, but both of those dimensions have to be, at least, partly exaggerated.

Still, the diminutive point guard, who has been out of the Toronto lineup since Dec. 11 after suffering an arm stinger, plays the game flat out and never backs away from running into a crowd of much bigger players. And because he suffers from a condition known as spinal stenosis, which leaves him more open to serious injuries of his back, neck and arms, Colangelo wishes he would try to stay out of harm's way.

But when asked that same question yesterday -- if Ford should attempt to make a conscious decision to avoid contact when he returns to the lineup -- head coach Sam Mitchell expressed a totally different attitude.

"T.J. knows how he needs to play and wants to play. If he can't be T.J., he don't want to play," said Mitchell. "And so, when he comes back, he has to get his mind right and get confidence to where he can be T.J. Ford, or it's not worth it for him to play.

"You can't half-ass your way through life in anything you do," Mitchell continued. "The people who do it, their life is unfulfilled."

Mitchell seemed perplexed and annoyed that someone (in this case, a sports writer) would even suggest that Ford alter his game somewhat.

"I'll tell you what to do. First go to the grocery store and you fill your house with as much food and water as you can keep in there. And then you lock your door, and you don't go outside again," the coach said. "(Then) I'll buy you couple of guard dogs, put a wrought-iron gate around your house, get an armed guard out there and that's the only chance you're going to have of truly being safe.

"But are you truly going to be safe? No."

Mitchell is pleased that Ford will be heading to Houston this week to begin training with John Lucas, a former NBAer who works with basketball players in conditioning and rehab.

"I went down to Houston last summer and watched how Lucas works with some guys and it's a good place for T.J.," Mitchell said. "T.J. feels comfortable there and John knows how to push him.

"T.J. has to be the one who makes the final decision to play and how he's going to play. And we have to be patient and let him do what he has to do."


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