It appeared like the Toronto Raptors sent their enigmatic young wing Terrence Ross conflicting messages this past summer. First they eliminated any doubt about the possibility of him being a starter this season by signing 29-year-old small forward DeMarre Carroll to a $60 million four-year deal. Then they re-affirmed their desire to keep Ross around for the long term by giving him a $31.5 million three-year extension. With the extension Ross becomes virtually untradeable this season under the terms of the CBA and solidifies his spot coming off the bench for the foreseeable future.
To say Ross brings out strong opinions from the Raptors fan base would be an understatement. There were a lot of fans that would rather have traded Ross than keep him or even just kicked his inconsistent butt to the curb to make room for the next prospect.
Rookie Norman Powell, veteran James Johnson or just about anybody else would do and their arguments are not without merit. Although there is a chance the brain trust running the team might – maybe – have just a little more information and experience with which to make decisions like these – just saying.
Ross did start the season looking pretty good in his new role, averaging 12.3 points, 46.2 percent shooting from three and a +4.3 points while he was on the court during his first three games. Then the old inconsistent Ross showed up for the next four contests where he shot 1-12 from three-point range and was a -4.3. Sometimes those +/- stats really do reflect what a player is doing for you on the court. The legitimate historical beef about Ross has been, when his shot isn’t falling, his defense disappears as well.
Perhaps mercifully Ross injured his left thumb and missed the next six games and when he returned, thumb all splinted up, he was playing more like his first three games. The thumb doesn’t look pretty, but Ross says its feels okay.
“It’s good, no problems with it,” Ross told Pro Bball Report after the win over Cleveland. “I’m getting (my rhythm) back, it’s coming.”
While his minutes are down, Ross’ efficiency has actually improved. He’s been shooting 50 percent from three since his return and has a +/- of +4 in those last three games. His activity level has been noticeably better and against the Cavaliers, Ross grabbed 3 boards and blocked 2 shots in just 10 minutes of work.
“We got to come in and change the game,” Ross said. “We have to take responsibility and do that every night.”
Ross has never complained about coming off the bench and has said all the right things about embracing his new role. Coming off the bench can give a young player a chance to watch what is going on in a game and come in ready to make an impact. With the minutes available down, Ross has to be more focused and that could be just what he needs.
“It’s fun,” Ross insisted. “You get to see what the game needs and you can step in and provide it.
“Just have focus, it’s easier for me. I got to see what it is like to be a starter and I got to see what it is like to come off the bench, so I kind of know what to do and I am prepared for it.
“We’ve played a lot of games. This is my fourth year, so I’ve kind of caught on to it.”
Ross is in his fourth NBA season, so you know the team is hoping he will find his focus this time to go with his obvious shooting ability. They did after all just guarantee their young wing another +$30 million. His detractors will be waiting for Ross to pull another disappearing act, after all, it isn’t all that hard to find the last one.
Can Ross find his focus in a bench role? He should be able to. He knows what to do and says all the right things. As with any young player trying to prove himself, it’s all on Ross to just do it. No one doubts this kid’s talent.
“(Ross) can guard guys at his position,” Casey insisted. “Offensively we can take advantage of a lot of his strengths. We are not going to have a guy coming in doing isos and one-on-ones and stuff like that, but he can space the floor with the second unit. Definitely there are going to be situations he is going to be in where we do go small. Terrence is an excellent piece for both units in certain situations defensively and definitely certain situations stretching the floor.”