T.J. Ford the Latest Pacer Point Guard to Fall Out of Favor
Ford hasn't been nearly as effective in his new locale, though. Void of major offensive threats around him (Troy Murphy vs. Chris Bosh, in other hands), Ford's assist numbers have fallen off the side of the planet. His scoring hasn't really improved in its place, and his defense is continually (and unsurprisingly, given his size) ineffective. As such, Ford looks much more like a third guard than a starting point guard for a playoff team.
But Ford wishes he were the Pacers' third guard at this point. ESPN's Chris Sheridan points out that Ford didn't play a minute in Sunday's loss to the Knicks, with veteran Earl Watson starting for the eighth time and 23-year-old A.J. Price getting the back-up minutes. Sheridan reports, citing unnamed sources, that the Pacers have been attempting to trade Ford for more than a year, which is impressive considering Ford didn't join the Pacers until the summer preceding the 2008-09 season (about 18 months ago). That would imply the Pacers almost immediately figured out that Ford wasn't the right fit, something coach Jim O'Brien just decided to formalize this week. It won't make any prospective move shipping Ford out an easier -- trading the last problematic Pacers point guard with big money left on his deal, Jamaal Tinsley, never happened. But the Pacers (unbelievably) still have a shot at a playoff spot, and if Ford's play is preventing a run (Sunday's result, a 43-point loss to the Knicks would indicate otherwise) then it's a move that needs to be made.
The problem with the assertion Indiana has been trying to trade Ford since it acquired him is that the Pacers have done almost nothing to add young, developable depth behind T.J. The team traded out of the 11th pick of the 2008 draft, allowing Portland to pick up touted Jerryd Bayless while Indiana received career back-up Jarrett Jack and a swingman (Brandon Rush). This June, in the league's deepest point guard draft in ages, the Pacers skipped on Ty Lawson, Eric Maynor, Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison and Jeff Teague to pick Tyler Hansbrough in the lottery. The team took Price (a four-year college player) late in the second round, and has now apparently decided he is the future at the position (after all of 132 pro minutes).
To decide Ford isn't right for the club is one thing. But if the Pacers really believed that a year ago and made no effort to replace him, it only reinforces the greatest fears about the lack of long-term planning and forward-looking strategy in Larry Bird's front office.