T.J. Ford has a lot of free time on his hands these days. After averaging about 20 minutes per game as a backup point guard for the Indiana Pacers through the first 2 1/2 months of the season, Ford fell behind starting trigger man Darren Collison, second-year reserve A.J. Price and rookie Lance Stephenson on the depth chart before dropping out of the team's rotation for good in late January.
Now, after the team's efforts to move him before the February trade deadline or buy out the remainder of the $8.5 million he's owed in the final year of his contract went nowhere, the University of Texas product finds himself a well-compensated spectator. At home games, at least — according to Mike Wells at the Indianapolis Star, the Pacers "have told Ford he doesn't have to travel with the team for road games because he will remain on the inactive list the rest of the season." So take a load off, T.J., and start whittling down that Netflix queue. I hear "Mystery Team" is available to watch instantly, so get on that.
Luckily, Ford's got an idea of how to spend those hours at home — as anyone who has seen him peddling boiled goose with Morris Peterson or watched him sautee shrimp while listening to Rick Ross knows, the dude likes to cook. Now, the former Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors starter has turned his love of cuisine into a highly topical endorsement opportunity.
More from Wells at the Star:
Ford, through his marketing people, has teamed up with Betty Crocker to take part in the Betty Bracket, a single-elimination tournament spinoff from the NCAA Tournament that puts him against 63 other competitors to see who has the best game-day recipes.
Ford is representing Austin since he attended the University of Texas.
His dish? Tex-Mex enchiladas.
"I'm from Texas so enchiladas is a huge recipe for us from Texas because we love Hispanic food," Ford said.
Just to be clear: There's no truth to the rumor that T.J. handles steps one and three in his recipe, then hands off to Jose Calderon for steps two and four. Only one cook in this kitchen. No timeshare.
For a wonderfully over-detailed look at Ford's competition in the Betty Bracket, your best bet is going to be the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul. One thing's for sure: His enchiladas will have to travel a tough road to make it out of the Exceptional Eats regional.
Even if they get past a stern first-round test from the Crescent Nacho Mini Cups of Rochester, Mich., they'll still have to navigate a potentially grueling back-to-back against Spicy Corn Fritters from Memphis and those preppy jerk Blue Cheese Deviled Dogs from Durham before they can even play for the right to challenge the winner of the Appealing Apps division in the Flavorful Four! Boy, oh boy, what drama!
Voting is now open and continues through April 4, so whether you want to see Ford survive and advance or flame out as a first-round bust, get crackin'. We here at BDL wish T.J.'s culinary concoctions the best of luck in their quest for one shining moment.
(We also extend beaucoup kudos to Ford's marketing people for securing an endorsement opportunity for an eighth seed's seventh guard, who hasn't stepped on the court since Jan. 28. Nice work, gang.)