Backside help

You can't know what drove him until you listen to the bars that rip over the hard-core, dirty South track his brother has laid down. You'll think it was ego or money or desperation. Or you'll think pride and perseverance were all he could call on when John Lucas ran him mercilessly, when doctors offered disheartening prognoses, when his own doubts pounded like drumbeats and hollered like fright in his head.

Let me give you the evolution of the Ford family tree. It started off with my daddy before it was me or L'il T. The bad times seem so long ago now. On this fall Friday afternoon in Milwaukee, no one in the Bucks' plush team lounge is thinking about feeling numb, getting hurt or being scared. Full-figured hotties gyrate in music videos on the big screen. There's chicken parmesan, pasta and chocolate cake for the taking. And more pressing matters to discuss.

"He blames it on the coaching staff," assistant Lester Conner says playfully, rubbing the point guard's shoulders. "Y'all should've told me," T.J. Ford insists. "I can't believe y'all didn't tell me." Player and coach are in mock debate over what could have been Ford's first career triple-double. Grabbing one more rebound is all Ford didn't do a few days earlier in a season-opening 117-108 OT win in Philly. In Allen Iverson's grill like Tyronn Lue with some offense, Ford went for 16 points and 14 assists to go with those nine boards. Most important, he split three defenders before hitting Michael Redd for a three with 1.6 seconds left that tied the game.