Guard bruised spinal cord on Feb. 24

Updated: April 23, 2004, 11:44 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. -- Milwaukee Bucks rookie point guard T.J. Ford has decided to undergo cervical spine surgery next month.

The operation is scheduled for the first week of May and will be performed by Dr. Robert Watkins of the Los Angeles Spine Surgery Institute.

Ford, who has a history of back trouble, hasn't played in a game since he bruised his spinal cord Feb. 24 when he landed on his tailbone in a game against Minnesota.

It was the third time that he had temporarily lost feeling in his extremities on the basketball court.

Ford is expected to make a full recovery and be back in time for training camp next October after a three- to four-month recovery, general manager Larry Harris said Friday.

"There's going to be a fusion of the vertebra and that's about all I know from a medical standpoint," Harris said.

The Bucks sent Ford to spinal specialists across the country over the last six weeks, and Harris termed Ford's decision a difficult one.

"When you're dealing with the spinal cord, it's not like a knee or an ankle," he said.

Ford "needed to be comfortable not only with the doctor, but the diagnosis, the procedure and the long-term effects that this might have," Harris added. "And I think he's confident, as we are, that once this procedure's done, it's going to correct the injury and he's going to be back on the court."

In 2001, Ford was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the openings of the vertebra the spinal cord runs through. After consulting with doctors, he decided against surgery. He had another scare in a pickup basketball game a year ago, but that didn't prevent the Bucks from selecting him with the eighth pick in last summer's NBA draft.

"It was not an issue at all," Harris said.

Ford averaged 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.5 assists while sharing point guard duties with Damon Jones for the Bucks this season. When he was hurt, he was leading all rookies in assists.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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