Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross had a confusingly disappointing season in his third year under Head Coach Dwane Casey. Something was off after progress the year before and the higher expectations only served as a stark contrast to what was being witnessed on the court. The upcoming season is a contract year for Ross and there is a lot at stake for the young wing. A big bounce-back is required if Ross is to regain the “3-and-D” status that will get him paid next summer.
Prior to training camp last fall Ross was upbeat. There was an underlying confidence that comes from knowing one is better than before and what to do to further improve. At the time, the quiet guard seemed more focused on the task at hand than in his first two training camps.
“I don’t feel like a rookie,” Ross said at the time. “I feel like one of the young guys. I’ve been in too many situations. I’ve had enough playing time that I can’t use that excuse anymore. Everything going forward is just manning up and if I messed up, I messed up. Right now I feel like I am a different player and I can do a lot more than I did last year.”
However, the improvements never came and Ross seemed to regress.
Only after the season was over did the Raptors provide an explanation. Ross had been playing with bone spurs and loose bodies in his left ankle that required surgery in May.
Recently, Casey told NBA.com’s John Schuhmann he considered Ross his best defensive wing prior to the ankle problems.
Casey, “What a lot of people don’t understand is that he had a lot of stuff in his ankle. He had that taken out this spring. He played through it last year. Whether that was why he took a dip defensively, I don’t know. I tell everybody that he was our best defensive wing player two years ago, and we were pretty good.”
After the big trade with Sacramento two years ago, Ross was inserted into the starting lineup at small forward and the Raptors did play stellar defense. Casey did have the luxury of substituting in veteran wing John Salmons whenever Ross got into difficulty, however, the improvement in Ross’ game during the season was palatable.
There has always been a potential issue utilizing DeMar DeRozan and Ross together in the starting lineup, both players have an advantage at shooting guard, but both can be taken advantage of by bigger small forwards. Ross isn’t physically capable of defending any number of starting small forwards he is likely to face.
Casey, “We’ve been getting by with Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan, who are really twos, playing the three and physically trying to go against bigger threes. Whether it’s been on the boards or guarding them, it’s been a challenge for those guys. I thought they did an admirable job two years ago, but it took a toll on us this past year, offensively and defensively.”
The signing of free agent small forward DeMarre Carroll means, barring injury, Ross is out of the running to start games this season, but it also means Ross should be the first wing off the bench and opportunity knocks for Ross to fight for minutes and prove his value.
Although Ross can expect to be given every opportunity to succeed, nothing will be handed to him this year.
Inbound Canadian free agent guard Cory Joseph will be backing up Kyle Lowry at point guard, but he is equally capable at off guard and will get his chances to play in the two point guard lineups that have become very popular in Toronto and throughout the NBA. Forward James Johnson is also in a contract year and Johnson was specifically brought in to handle the bigger small forwards Ross and DeRozan can struggle to contain. The potential squeeze on Ross’ minutes is obvious.
Casey, “He’s got to get back to that level more so than with his shooting. But I don’t think he’s hit a slump. He didn’t take that next big step. He hasn’t forgot how to shoot. Even with one leg, he was shooting this morning. So we’re looking for big things out of him and this is a big year for him, career-wise.”
It will be a fight for minutes against internal competition Ross will have to be at his best to contend with. If this situation doesn’t bring a big bounce-back year out of Ross, then perhaps nothing can – at least not in Toronto.
photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com
The Toronto Raptors wing Terrence Ross was seen working out with Director of Sports Science Alex McKechnie on Tuesday following the scheduled predraft workouts at the Air Canada Centre.