Raptors' T.J. Ford expected to return to Toronto after scary fall in game
TORONTO -- Raptors guard T.J. Ford said Wednesday that he plans take at least a week off before trying to resume any basektball activity, but said a scary fall the previous night in Atlanta doesn't have him worried about a career-ending injury.
Ford was released from an Atlanta hospital Wednesday and flew home to Toronto, one day after his head struck the floor and he was removed from the court on a stretcher.
"I'm going to give myself a week," Ford said after the Raptors beat Dallas on Wednesday night. "It all depends on how my body recovers. I don't think you can put a timetable on it."
Ford was injured when Atlanta rookie Al Horford struck him on the head and knocked him down as Ford was trying to score on a breakaway with 1:32 left in the game. Horford, who was ejected for a flagrant foul, said he was trying to block Ford's shot.
Ford spent the night in Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital for observation and tests. The Raptors said Ford had feeling in his extremities when taken off the court.
On Wednesday, Ford said both arms are still sore and that he is unable to sleep comfortably.
When he does return, Ford said he won't be any more cautious about contact.
"I understand I'm always playing with a risk," Ford said. "I don't think the risk has changed. I don't think, after talking to the medical doctors and the way that my body feels, that I'm putting my career in jeopardy.
"If I felt that way, I don't think I would play because life is more important," Ford added. "I have a son that I definitely want to be able to play with. I don't think I could live with not being able to do a lot of things with him. If it gets to that point, I think I would definitely give it up."
Toronto's medical staff will conduct their own assessment of Ford's condition before he resumes workouts.
"We just hope we can get him through this," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said before the game. "When he feels up to it, he'll start practicing again."
In 2001, Ford was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the openings of the vertebra the spinal cord runs through.
He was injured in a February 2004 collision with Minnesota's Mark Madsen, then missed the final 26 games of that season and the entire 2004-05 season with Milwaukee because of neck surgery.
Ford was sidelined by a stinger during last season's first round playoff series against New Jersey. He missed six games earlier this season with a stinger in his left arm, the result of a Nov. 20 collision with Dallas' Josh Howard. Ford, who returned to action on Dec. 7, is averaging 14.1 points and 6.8 assists.
Despite Ford's injury history, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said he expects the 24-year-old to recover and continue playing.
"You're always concerned about that type of thing and you monitor it," Colangelo said. "The way I understand it, what's been told to me by the various experts that have been consulted is as long as there's no change in the neurological signs and the imaging remains unchanged, he should be fine and at no greater risk than he was prior to these episodes."
A smiling Ford received a loud ovation when he walked out to the Raptors bench during a second quarter timeout Wednesday.
"I wanted to come out and support my teammates," Ford said. "Whether I came out on the floor or not, I just wanted to show those guys that I'm OK."
Ford's Toronto teammates were happy to see him up and walking.
"I'm just glad he's safe," forward Chris Bosh said. "It makes you realize that some things are more important than basketball and T.J.'s health is more important."
Colangelo said the Hawks contacted the Raptors to express remorse about the incident.
"I know that Horford feels awful about it," Colangelo said. "He spent a couple of hours at the hospital with (T.J.) last night and, true to T.J.'s form, he was probably doing more of the consoling. I think the kid (Horford) was pretty shaken up about it. He felt awful. I don't think there was any intention to do harm."
Ford said he appreciated Horford's visit and told the rookie he wouldn't hold a grudge.
"It wasn't a dirty play at all," Ford said. "I think I just kind of tricked him with the move and he got caught in a bad spot. He's a good kid. I told him I'm not holding anything against him."
Ford scored 26 points in the Raptors' 100-88 victory Tuesday.
"He was starting to get his rhythm back," Mitchell said. "He was unguardable last night."
The Raptors sent a plane to Atlanta for Ford, director of basketball operations Marc Eversley and assistant trainer Rory Mullin. On the way back to Toronto, the plane stopped in Baltimore to collect forward Jorge Garbajosa, who had surgery on his left leg Tuesday.
The Raptors have battled a number of injuries this season, with Ford, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and Garbajosa all missing time.
"I can't remember the last time we had our team intact," Mitchell said. "It's been a while."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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