T.J. showing signs he wants starting job back

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

OAKLAND -- T.J. Ford knows how it goes. You lose your spot, you fight your way back.

Ford began the season as the starting point guard on this Raptors. Injuries and the stellar play of Jose Calderon in his absence combined to take it away from him.

Ford says he is not bitter about this but, at the same time, it's not in his competitive nature to accept it, either.

This is not a knock on Calderon or Ford. Calderon is the starter on merit. But if Ford can change that, he will. Would anyone expect anything less of a top-level athlete who got to where he is primarily on his competitiveness?

At every level, at every stop in his basketball career, Ford either has been or become the starting point guard in short order.

On Tuesday in Los Angeles, on a night the Lakers drowned the Raptors in three-pointers, Ford showed the first real flashes of making a case to possibly reclaiming his starting status.

Head coach Sam Mitchell has gone on record as saying Calderon will be his starter for the remainder of the year. Maybe that will be the case, but Mitchell is also the guy who says his players fill out the lineup card for him.

CHANGE OF MIND

If they are playing well, they play a lot. If not, they sit. If Ford consistently outplays Calderon, don't be surprised to see Mitchell change his mind.

Having said that, Ford is not at the point, yet, where that is going to happen.

His 28-point night against the Lakers is just the conversation-starter. But there are those who say it's not even that. They say Ford hurt his team by jacking up a team-high 23 shots. And with a healthy lineup that would be a legitimate argument.

But take Chris Bosh out of the equation, as he has been for the past six games, and who else is going to create offence on this team?

Anthony Parker and Rasho Nesterovic have both picked up their games tremendously in Bosh's absence. Parker, in particular, has become much more aggressive, but his skill set is not suited so much to creating offence as complementing it. Bosh creates his own offence with his superior quickness over other bigs and the fact that teams have to double-team him or suffer the consequences.

Ford also creates his own offence with his high-speed drives into the paint. But without Bosh there, he often is left to finish what he creates. If he's still throwing up Kobe-like shot attempts when Bosh returns, then those complaints will have some merit.

Perhaps the biggest indication Tuesday night that Ford is ready to challenge once again for starter's minutes came with just more than two minutes remaining and the Raptors down by eight.

Ford drove the paint hard and, with Kobe Bryant moving into position for the block, he threw caution to the wind and attempted to throw one down right in Kobe's grill.

LINGERING EFFECTS

Ford says he is still feeling the lingering effects of strained abdominals but, knowing that, he pushed all conflicting doubt out of his mind and went right at the NBA's likely MVP.

The fact that Kobe won this battle, blocking the dunk before Nesterovic cleaned it up with a nice follow doesn't take away from the moment.

Ford felt strong enough and confident enough in his game to try this move and that speaks volumes to how far his game has come the past few weeks.

Ford admitted it wasn't something he would have tried even a week ago.

"I just tried to give it my best shot," he said. "I was feeling good at the time. I knew he would try to block the shot whether I laid it up or not. But I guarantee you if I felt 100%, I'm pretty sure I would have dunked on him. I just tried to be aggressive and take it to him. Obviously, he made a great play in blocking the shot but if I had to do it over, I'd do it again."


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