A very passive aggressive T.J. Ford question period during the Indiana Pacers shoot around just came to a close, and as many my first thoughts shifted to the crowd reaction for tonight’s game – will Ford be welcomed back or riddled, booed and made the villain or applauded for the work he did while playing with the Raptors.
The debate has been raging for some time among fans however I have disagreed with those who have said Ford should be shouted down. T.J. never made an disparaging remarks on his way out of town, and it has became clear since that he wasn't the only malcontent in the locker room either. Any boos Ford receives at this point will appear more out of jealousy at the Raptors lack of success and the Pacers positive attention, and this fanbase should consider themselves better than that.
During today's media scrum with reporters courtside T.J. implied, in the passive aggressive tone that was the feel of the conversation, that it was more the media who single-handedly caused this drama, and that there was one than just one problem on the team not solely him. He even came out and said that since the media was so overwhelmingly in support of shipping him out of town, with no one coming to his support, that he knew as soon as the season was over that his days were numbered and so did everybody but no one had the guts to say it. When asked straight after that comment if he felt that he was not given a fair chance by the media in Toronto he backpedalled and made sure that the next response given was not indicting in any manner. Overall it was a very political Ford question period, and thankfully without the recent antics that have marred Canadian political question periods as of late.
Neither Damon Stoudamire nor Tracy McGrady left without a few tiny parting shots but they weren’t the most damaging of comments in any way, and were more just words that came out thanks to feelings for the organization which had been simmering under the surface. Vince Carter...well, no refresher is necessary there.
But Morris Peterson, the beloved 'MoPete', was welcomed home wholeheartedly last season by the Toronto fans just like Matt Bonner, the "Red Rocket", was as well. While T.J. will most certainly will not getting the rousing response these two players got - although I for one hope Rasho Nesterovic does receive a very positive response from the crowd, he completely deserves it! - I do not feel that Ford deserves to receive any boos from Raptor fans. Although Toronto fans are painted as incapable of applauding players who left town thanks to Vince, we have proven in the past that we can do this! If one feels upset about Ford's depature indifference is likely the best way to go tonight.
Despite the fact that his meeting today with reporters had a tiny feeling of “I told you so!” (even if he didn't want to come out and say it directly), Ford still said appreciative things about Jose Calderon and his former teammates too. He did not bash the city or the fans in ANY way either! If he has a problem with anyone it appears to the media first and foremost (possibly hung around with Gary Sheffield a bit too much over the offseason?), and then the organization itself after that, but that's about it.
This date has been circled on my calendar for some time and I was able to secure tickets, I will be there in the Air Canada Centre tonight and upon the introductions I will be applauding for T.J. Ford, and loudly cheering for Rasho when he makes his appearance as well. In no way though, when I focused in on this game, did I assume it would have such dire consequences for the Raps (assumed it would be that way for the Pacers and it still kind of is, they have trouble holding leads down the stretch, but thanks to expectations it’s clearly a must win game for Toronto). With that taken into account it makes even more sense not to boo Ford, no further motivation please for our visiting opponents while T.J is no Lebron let's learn from that mistake! (and much hated Vince feeds off it too).
Toronto is its own team this season , Indiana is its own team too, and both are involved in their own seasons – one is widely considered the best sub .500 team in the Association, the other a disappointment for being under .500. The former is not the Toronto team folks, but if they hope to garner that sort of respect a nice victory over a surprising group of upstarts from the Midwest States would certainly help to get them moving in that direction.
While some may believe that trading Ford was a mistake f that judgment is purely based on this season it’s ridiculously premature – and should any unforeseeable turn for the worse happen and Ford is injured once more, I’m sure another snap judgment would be made for the case of Calderon. Overall the people of Toronto need to take Duane's advice and calm themselves, appreciate that two top notch point guards who once donned our jerseys and played the best for us, their crowd. And they should not, in my opinion, boo T.J. Ford tonight. Not during the introductions, and certainly not every time he touches the ball. I don’t doubt for one second though that the reaction at the ACC will be mixed for tonight, so I can only hope those booing are the minority. Stay classy Toronto!