Late Friday night, Bucks general manager Larry Harris swung a deal to send Ford and cash considerations (believed to be $1 million) to Toronto in exchange for power forward Charlie Villanueva.
"The hard part of any trade is having to give up something in return," Harris added. "T.J. is a talented young athlete who gave his all to this organization for three years, both on and off the court. He was an inspiration to all of us when he found the will and strength to fight back from the neck injury he suffered during his rookie season. Many people thought he would never play basketball again, but he thrived in the face of adversity and now has the promise of a long NBA career ahead of him. We wish him much success in Toronto."
Villanueva, 21, was selected seventh overall in the 2005 NBA Draft out of the Connecticut and was a contender for the rookie of the year award eventually won by Chris Paul of the Hornets. Villanueva, who stands 6 feet 11 inches, averaged 13.0 points and 6.4 rebounds in 81 games (36 as a starter). He ranked second among all rookies in points and rebounds, third in blocks (0.78) and minutes (29.1), seventh in field goal percentage (.463) and eighth in steals (0.74).
"Acquiring Charlie takes care of a primary need we had going into the summer," Harris said. "He’s a gifted power-forward who knows how to score both inside and outside. We believe his style of play will complement Andrew Bogut’s very well, giving us an extremely young and athletic frontcourt. The outstanding rookie season he had last year is only the beginning of what he’s capable of achieving."
Villanueva played two seasons at UConn, helping the Huskies win a national championship before becoming an early entry candidate for the 2005 NBA Draft. He averaged 11.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in 63 collegiate games and received second-team All-Big East honors his sophomore year.
"Charlie is a terrific young man and was a great fit for the community and a great fit for this team," Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo told the Toronto Sun. "But in the end, we're trying to put together a more complete basketball team."
Colangelo told the Sun that he first asked the Bucks about Ford during a pre-draft camp last month in Orlando and spoke to the Bucks about him during the draft on Wednesday.
"He really pushes the ball up the floor," Colangelo told the Sun. "He's lightning-quick with great playmaking ability. He's a perfect fit for the type of team we'd like to become."
Ford, who is 23, appeared in 127 games with the Bucks after being drafted by the Bucks eighth overall during the 2003 NBA Draft. After missing the second half of the 2003-'04 season and the entire 2004-'05 season with a spinal cord bruise, he came back to appear in 72 games last year and averaged 12.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and a team-best 6.6 assists in 35.5 minutes per game.
Though he provided considerable spark to the Bucks' offense, Ford was often a defensive liability because of his diminutive stature (he's shorter than the listed 6-0).
The Ford-Villanueva trade was completed just hours before midnight, which is when the NBA free agency period began. Harris is unlikely to be a major player in the free agent market, but another trade is likely. With Ford out of the picture, the Bucks are a little thin at the point guard spot, where Mo Williams tops the depth chart alongside Charlie Bell. The Bucks have been shopping center Jamaal Magloire and could use him and / or veteran Joe Smith to acquire another point guard.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.