Ford drives home point of playing alongside Jose

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Jose Calderon has been saying it for months, and now T.J. Ford has emphatically jumped on the bandwagon.

The two point guards want to stay together for as long as possible -- even though they would have a lot more to gain from a personal standpoint if they split up.

"Do I think it can continue to work? Yes I do," said Ford this week, when asked about sharing duties with Calderon. "I think we both continue to make each other better. We set high expectations for one another (and) I think we do a good job supporting one another and I think our relationship is great."

Calderon is a restricted free agent at season's end and GM Bryan Colangelo has made it known he will match all offers. But the question remains: Will Calderon be content to come off the bench once Ford is healthy? Or, for that matter, will Ford be happy coming off the bench?

Calderon has been asked those questions and his answer has always been that, no matter what, he wants to stay with the Raptors and play alongside Ford.

"The great thing (about Jose and I) is, no one feels threatened,'' Ford said. "Nobody feels like somebody is trying to out-do them to take his job or be an a--hole or has ego problems.

"Everybody's been able to maintain their egos, and I think that's what kept us afloat."

Ford's extended injury absence allowed Calderon to start. And the Spanish national team star has made the most of it, averaging 14.5 points and 9.9 assists and leading the NBA with a 5.41 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Calderon credits playing alongside Ford with helping his game reach the point where he'll be able to command big money, perhaps in the neighbourhood of $8 million US per season.

"I'm glad he gives me a little bit of credit, but I'm not looking for any credit," said Ford, when told of Calderon's sentiments.

"Jose has been playing great. (My injuries) have given him the opportunity to show people that he's more than just a backup guard. He's capable of being a starter. He's capable of leading a team.

"He was able to take advantage of it and continue to play at an extremely high level. All you can do is just cheer him on and continue to give him support."

Ford, when he is healthy, is an all-star calibre point guard. He has two more years left on his contract after this season, with a player option for 2010-11. But his condition (spinal stenosis) is a concern for the Raptors.

Having Calderon around is a huge insurance policy in case Ford's injury woes continue -- and Ford, apparently, sees the value in having such a high-quality backup.

"We would all like for everyone to come back (next season)," Ford said.

"We're a close team. But we understand that this is a business and it may or may not be possible.

"From a financial standpoint, they may try to get better in a certain area. I'm not a GM, I haven't gotten that far yet. But it's going to be interesting (this summer).

"(As for Calderon), the city of Toronto would love to have him back," Ford said.

"I think he's been playing tremendous. He's definitely one of the top point guards in the NBA."


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