One player that is probably looking forward to free-agency as an unrestricted free-agent is point guard T.J. Ford, most recently of the Indiana Pacers. Ford spent the past three seasons as a member of the Indiana Pacers after coming over in a trade that took place on draft night in 2008.
The Toronto Raptors acquired center Jermaine O’Neal, forward Maceo Baston, and the 41st overall draft pick (center Nathan Jawai) from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for center Radoslav Nesterovic, T.J. Ford, and the 17th overall draft pick (center Roy Hibbert).
The biggest question for Ford is to prove to teams that he has recovered enough from his injuries over the years and can positively contribute to a team. He has dealt with a spine injury and a stinger injury that has caused his career to be questioned. During the past two seasons with the Pacers, questions came about Ford’s general attitude while being shuffled in-and-out of the rotation.
During the 2009-10 NBA season, Ford averaged 10.3 points and 25.3 minutes per game while appearing in 47 games the entire season (including 32 starts). During the 2010-11 NBA season, Ford only appeared in a career-low 41 games averaging only 5.4 points and 18.9 minutes per game.
He clearly was out of the rotation in Indiana after the team brought in point guard Darren Collison. Ford did play off the bench, but was soon replaced by A.J. Price at times. Ford was then the third guard on the roster, and was used sparingly throughout the season.
The Pacers looked to trade him, but came up empty. They made attempts in 2009, and again in 2011 when he had an expiring contract, which are in demand as the trade deadline rolls around. So they tried to buy him out in order to open up a roster spot, but Ford refused the terms. He was entering the last year of his contract, and would rather wait to enter free-agency in the summer of 2011.
As a result, Ford will most likely find another opportunity if he signs for the minimum or a short-term contract as his injury questions will come up. He can find a back-up role as his days as a starter are most likely over.