Player Analysis: T.J. Ford
May 10, 2011
LOOKING BACK: With the acquisition of Darren Collison, Ford headed into a season as a backup for the first time since joining the Pacers in 2008 and handled the role well. He played in the first 38 games, including three fill-in starts, and scored in double figures seven times. His competition for playing time, as it turned out, wasn't Collison but rather A.J. Price, who supplanted Ford as the backup point guard shortly before the coaching change in late January. Ford did not play at all under Frank Vogel until the final two regular-season games, when he moved up the depth chart by default when rookie Lance Stephenson was dropped from the rotation. Ford made two relatively brief appearances in the postseason against Chicago.
LOOKING AHEAD: He is still relatively young at 28, still jet-quick, still able to create off the dribble, still a proven clutch playmaker and still a solid defender, so Ford should have a several productive years left. His future, though, does not appear to rest with the Pacers. The team reportedly came close to trading him each of the past two Februaries and now that he is a free agent, he can seek his own opportunity. The Pacers are grooming young trio of Collison, Price and possibly Stephenson at the point.
KEY STATS: Ford's averages of 5.4 points and 3.4 assists both were career lows, as were his totals of 41 games played, three starts and 773 minutes. The past two seasons he shot just 14-of-82 (.171) from the 3-point line, a vexing decline considering he was a .318 career shooter from the arc, including .337 his first season with the Pacers.
CONTRACT STATUS: Free agent.
OUTLOOK: Ford appeared headed for stardom before the severe neck injury that short-circuited the development of his career in Milwaukee and admittedly did not handle well his battle for playing time with Jose Calderon in Toronto. He was nothing but a solid, respected veteran with the Pacers. Though his playing time dwindled, Ford did not grumble, accepting the circumstances with class and grace. That should serve him well moving forward.