Spurs’ Ford back from D-League

By Jeff McDonald

T.J. Ford thoroughly enjoyed being a D-Leaguer for a day.

Of course, the seven-year NBA veteran didn’t have to endure a long, cramped bus ride, sleep in a less-than-five-star hotel or endure any of the other spartan accoutrements that accompany life in pro basketball’s minor leagues.

“It was just a practice,” Ford, the Spurs’ backup point guard, said of his one-day rehab stint with the Austin Toros. “I haven’t played a lot. I’m coming back from an injury. I think I had enough days off.”

Ford missed 22 games after suffering a torn left hamstring Jan. 10 in Milwaukee. He has totaled less than 30 minutes in three games since his return.

Under an NBA rule new for this season, teams are permitted to send veterans to the Development League, with the player’s consent. In years past, players with more than two seasons of NBA service time were ineligible for the D-League.

The Spurs assigned Ford to the Toros on Monday, in order to get him extra practice time on a day coach Gregg Popovich gave his team the day off.

Ford didn’t even have to leave San Antonio to join the Toros. They held their practice at the Spurs practice facility.

“It felt good to just come in a play, get up and a down and condition my legs, because it’s still a work in progress,” Ford said.

As expected, the Spurs recalled Ford on Tuesday, allowing him to practice with the team. He will be available with the Spurs tonight when the Spurs face New York.

Full strength at last: For the first time since Jan. 2, the Spurs will list no players on the injury report for tonight’s game against the Knicks. The entire roster – sans rookie point guard Cory Joseph, who is playing in the D-League – participated in Monday’s practice.

That includes power forward Tim Duncan, who has recovered from the stomach bug that limited him in Sunday’s loss to Denver.

Starting center DeJuan Blair played just four minutes against the Nuggets after suffering a knee contusion less than a minute into the game, but his sparing use was due to performance issues, not injury.

Discount double think: When Knicks forward Steve Novak knocks down a few 3-pointers in a row, he’ll often punctuate his scoring with a “title belt” celebration maneuver lifted from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The move has become known as the “discount double check,” after Rodgers’ series of commercials for State Farm.

In San Antonio, where Novak finished last season and was briefly in training camp with the Spurs in December, his former teammates don’t have to wonder how such showmanship might have gone over with Popovich.

“Not very well,” Matt Bonner said with a laugh. “I’d expect to hear a (substitution) horn at the next dead ball, for sure.”

Bonner, who ranks just behind Novak as the NBA’s fourth-most accurate 3-point shooter, says he has no plans to develop his own signature celebration move.

“I thought about doing like a tai chi move, but that didn’t pan out,” Bonner said. “My first thought after I make a shot is to get back on defense.”


Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN

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