Of Tweets and TJ and Ghosts of Point Guards Passed But Not Gone

The internet is an amazing, confusing place.  It goes absolutely nowhere at a million miles an hour.  It has destroyed the concepts of time, seasons, and personal boundaries.  As a child growing up, I loved baseball in the summer, football in the fall, and basketball in the winter.  At this time of year, I would have been dreaming about being Reggie Jackson, just a few weeks away from turning into Sweetness.  It would have been months before I fantasized about swooping around the hardwood like Dr. J.

These days, I literally spend some time thinking about the Indiana Pacers and the NBA every day of the year.  There’s been plenty to keep Pacer fans engaged – acquiring Collison, Danny Granger’s success with Team USA, and, sadly, Lance Stephenson’s arrest.  And it certainly appears that Larry Bird isn’t done with the summer.

One of the big issues that is expected to be resolved before training camp is the future of T.J. Ford.  The point guard has lost his starting job in each of the two years here, and reportedly danced a jig in front of his teammates when it appeared that he was going to be traded to Charlotte at the deadline.  With an entire Pacer fan base wound up from all of the summer’s activity, it’s no wonder the following tweets from T.J. this morning caused a reaction.

Had a great talk yesterday with JOB!!!!

” God sends u through things to see how u will respond with ur faith ” sometimes it’s hard to believe. Thx u Jesus.. Blesses Day

Almost immediately, a thread opened on Pacers Digest to speculate on the meaning of these lines.  I’ll be honest, I was swept up in it, too.  I didn’t participate in the thread, but I did follow it closely.  I was (and still am) baffled by this development.

To be honest, I am at a loss as to any “talk with JOB” not involving news of T.J.’s imminent departure from the Pacers that would make T.J. happy.  At least, not one that I would think would actually realistically happen.  I cannot see a conversation where O’Brien earnestly tells T.J. that he’s got a realistic shot at either the starting job or heavy minutes this coming season.  The thought boggles my mind.  The Pacers have done everything short of run a 24-hour ticker announcement on ESPN that they’re done with him, and now they’ve got Darren Collison.

I mean, can you see any realistic conversation that might make Ford happy to return to the Pacers this year?

At the same time, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense for O’Brien to be the guy letting him know that a deal was in the works.

But then, as I was trying put my thoughts together, I re-read the tweets – together.

Had a great talk yesterday with JOB!!!!  “God sends u through things to see how u will respond with ur faith.”  sometimes it’s hard to believe. Thx u Jesus. Blessed day.

And I thought, “Uhhhh…”

So, it seems like after T.J.’s great talk with JOB yesterday, he realized that God sends trials and tribulations to test man’s faith.  It’s not unreasonable for Ford to have seen his struggles with the Indiana Pacers as a test of faith.  It also seems that someone of Ford’s faith would probably seek solace in the Bible, specifically within the book that illustrates the story of a pious man who was tested by Satan himself – the Book of Job.

“Oh.”

Well, this is what I get for imbuing a 140-character social networking forum with way too much depth of meaning.

So, now I’m stuck.  I have two alternate explanations for Ford’s tweets.  One that hits deep in the sweet spot of the Pacers fan base and my interests, despite the fact that the conclusions drawn from this explanation create a mind-numbing amount cognitive dissonance, including the fact that it seems very unusual for Ford to refer to Jim O’Brien as “JOB” – an internet forum monicker that is unlikely to be used by his players or people around O’Brien.  A second which has a much deeper, more significant meaning – which I am completely unqualified to discuss.

Yeah.

Right now, every instinct I have tells me that T.J. was actually sharing inspiration gained from reading the Bible, and that “JOB!!!!” is not Jim O’Brien, but Job.  Because of this, I’m not going to dwell any further on the implications of the tweets themselves.  Instead, it is still worthwhile to spend a few words on Ford’s future with the Pacers.

Or should I say, lack thereof?

The day the Collison trade was completed, there were reports that the Pacers were trying to buy out the last year of T.J.’s contract Ford was thoroughly uninterested, and it appears that the Pacers may have low-balled him, with the buyout amount being reported at only $5 million of the $8.5 million owed.  I find it hard to believe that the Pacers expected that to actually work.

However, I am still firmly of the opinion that T.J. Ford has played his last game as a Pacer.  At the time of the reported buyout offer, the Pacers Point Guard situation had Darren Collison as the apparent starter, a rapidly recovering A.J. Price as backup, and promising rookie Lance Stephenson as the third stringer.  Since then, Lance may have butchered his future with the Pacers, but I still don’t think that changes the calculus here.  The Collison trade created a $3.5 million Trade Exception at the same time as creating the same amount of space under the Luxury Tax.  This leaves plenty of room to pick up a veteran point should Price not be ready and Stephenson prove…expendable.

O’Brien and Ford clearly mix like oil and water in terms of basketball, but both did an admirable job of keeping the situation from degenerating in the public eye. However, that seems likely to be tested to the point of breaking if they go into next season with this situation.

This Pacer locker room welcomes Darren Collison, James Posey, Paul George, and likely Magnum Rolle, as well as the hopefully healthy returns of second year players A.J. Price and Tyler Hansbrough.  Add in young veterans Roy Hibbert, Brandon Rush, and Josh McRoberts, and cluster them all around Danny Granger, you begin to see a promising young core.  A group that can begin to compete soon – this year – and hopefully grow towards contention over the next few years.  I can’t imagine risking that dynamic by bringing a player who doesn’t fit either in the scheme, the future or, arguably, the locker room into the mix.

Now, some will say to hold onto his expiring contract as trade bait.  I’m fine with that up until training camp, but no longer.  The Pacers currently have over $28 million in “trade-able” expiring contracts, but there is no way they would want to trade all of them.  That would mean basically rebuilding their payroll back to $70 million. This would be foolish because (a) it is difficult to tell what the new CBA will look like, (b) it would interfere with future year signings – such as Hibbert, Rush, and others coming off rookie contracts, and (c) a payroll that big is not really financially viable in Indianapolis.

Therefore, the Pacers could afford to forgo keeping Ford around as an expiring contract, effectively taking him as “savings.”  In their place, if I am unable to trade Ford or negotiate a buyout prior to the start of training camp, then I would release him outright.  I have nothing personal against Ford, but it makes no basketball sense or locker room sense to me to bring him back.  This is a very aggressive move, and one the Pacers are likely to be hesitant to make, but I believe it’s a possibility.

In the meantime, Pacer fans will continue to wait and watch the summer unfold, in a virtual world where the daily inundation of blogs, posts, and tweets would surely test even the patience of Job.

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I may need divine inspiration to sort out T.J.’s tweets.

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Tags: Jim O'Brien TJ Ford

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