a lot of people have been discussing the vibe around this team being better - the jack quote is definitely another example. ultimately, it's just refreshing to not have drama at PG so far this season.November 12, 2008
Pacers forgetting problems at point
Ford steps in and makes an immediate difference
By Mike Wells
T.J. Ford has made Jamaal Tinsley an afterthought in less time than it took the Indiana Pacers to box up and ship Tinsley's belongings to him this summer.
Ford's early play has given fans a reason to believe the team has solved its recent instability at point guard. The Pacers are 3-3 heading into tonight's game at New Jersey. Win, and they climb above .500 for the first time since late last December.
"I don't want to jump the gun, but this guy has to be one of the top point guards in the East right now at this point," said Jarrett Jack, Ford's backup. "I don't see too many people playing better than him right now. The All-Star thing crept in my mind with him and how nice it would be for him because it's his third go-around.
"People kind of write you off after your third go-around. He's been persistent with it and he's playing good basketball."
Ford started his career with Milwaukee and was traded from Toronto to the Pacers in the offseason. Injuries were an issue, not skill.
This season, he's been healthy. He also has beaten opponents with his scoring (17.0 points) and his drive-and-dish ability (6.0 assists per game). He has flirted with a triple-double in each of the past two games.
After last season, coach Jim O'Brien said the Pacers had to have better point guard play. Ford and Jack have accepted that challenge.
"It's so important to have toughness at the point guard spot," O'Brien said. "Mental toughness, physical toughness. I think Larry (Bird) being able to get both of those guys on our team has really changed our whole psyche because everything offensively and defensively starts at the point guard position."
It would be easy for Ford to play with a chip on his shoulder after Toronto basically showed him the door and put its offense in Jose Calderon's hands.
Ford doesn't see it that way, though. He's more concerned about continuing his trend of leading his team to the playoffs in his first season.
"I've got the mentality and mindset of coming and trying to get the team back to the status it should be," Ford said. "I think it's a challenge and it allows me to be more focused and get the job done. (We) want to prove people wrong and show people that we are a good team. We have a lot of different weapons and we're going to play hard every night."
Success aside, adjusting to O'Brien's offense hasn't been easy.
O'Brien likes constant ball movement. Ford likes to constantly have the ball in his hands.
Something had to give and the Pacers coach won out.
"I told him in the first meeting we had that he has a tendency to sometimes over-dribble," O'Brien said. "I thought it would take him some time to understand that passing is what keys everything.
"It doesn't mean we're taking the basketball out of his hands. We want him to penetrate, but we don't want him to penetrate into traffic. I think he's done an exceptional job."
O'Brien wanted the ball in Ford's hands late in the game against Oklahoma City on Monday.
With O'Brien calling a play -- a pick and roll -- for Ford every time down the court, Ford played a part in the Pacers' final 11 points. He finished with 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in 40 minutes.
"He wants to show he can run a basketball team and be that guy for however long he wants to be there," Jack said. "I think he's doing a great job at the present time."