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NBA Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross

Raptors Coach Casey Says Terrence Ross Has His Focus Back

It would be polite to suggest the Toronto Raptors third year wing Terrence Ross had regressed this season. Expectations were high that Ross would take the next step in becoming an effective ‘three-and-D’ player, but a lack of focus and aggression on the court has left just about everyone frustrated with his game. Head coach Dwane Casey even took the unexpected, but more than reasonable, step of removing Ross from the starting lineup for a while – it didn’t help.

However, the message from the team this year and last has been consistent. The Raptors are willing to invest a lot of time and effort into Ross’ development. They know it may (will) cost them a few wins along the way, but there is a long term focus in Toronto, so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when Casey put Ross back into the starting lineup nine games ago despite not having a compelling reason to do so.

Toronto has four wins and five losses since Ross was reinserted and those wins have come at the expense of the struggling HEAT, Pacers, Timberwolves and Knicks. Objectively Ross has played better, but it was somewhat surprising to hear the level of praise coming from his head coach.

“I love Terrence’s focus,” Casey said. “Terrence has really been focused the last couple of weeks since he has gotten back in the starting lineup. He has been very mature in his approach, following the game plan, understanding what he needs to do defensively and offensively. His overall engagement and approach has been great.”

Ross is still getting abused defensively. He still loses his man off screens, back cuts or any manner of veteran offensive move, but he is shooting better and the numbers say he is more effective than he has been all season.

“It is just how it goes,” Ross said. “You get a little fatigued, your shot is a little off, but once you get your legs back, you’re good as new.

“(The All-Star break) gave you a little bit of time to take off and rest your body.”

Pre-All-Star break Ross was shooting a disappointing 36.8 percent from three-point range, but after the break that has ballooned to 41.5 percent. For a player who has been reluctant to drive and rarely gets to the free throw line, a nearly 5 percent bump in his three-point shooting is huge.

Casey’s generous assessment of Ross’ play isn’t without some merit. Prior to being reinserted into the starting lineup, Ross was a +0.3 points per game while he was on the court and that can only been described as terrible on a team winning 60 percent of their games. Since rejoining the starters nine games ago, Ross is +2.6 points while on the court – not great, but at least respectable. On a relative basis, maybe Casey’s high praise isn’t so far off base even if there remains massive room for improvement.

Toronto has had the Atlantic Division crown in the bag for a couple of months already and should easily set a new franchise record for wins in a season, so in reality, this team has been practicing for the playoffs and the future for some time now. They can afford to invest in player development.

If Casey is right and Ross has found his focus, the last dozen games of the season provide an opportunity for his young wing to get his act together in time for the playoffs.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

 

Ross Media DayRaptors Terrence Ross Credits GM Ujiri For His Progress

“I don’t feel like a rookie,” Ross said. “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.”

 

 

Terrence Ross 1The Raptors Terrence Ross Is Set To Breakout This Season

“It is a lot less stressful,” Ross said. “It is harder, but in some ways you can play a little more freely. Just knowing that I am going to get the chance to keep playing, I am always going to get the opportunity, you don’t have to rush it and try to prove yourself as much, so now you just play your game and they keep me on the court. Now I just have to sharpen it up and make sure I don’t make many mistakes.”

 

 

 

TOR Ross and Valanciunas

Sources: Raptors Ross And Valanciunas Are Available

Basketball Insiders Alex Kennedy has confirmed his sources say the Toronto Raptors are willing to move one or both of Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas for a star player.

 

 

He also confirms the Raptors interest in the Pacers power forward David West that has been bouncing around social media and elsewhere for a while.

 

Invariably these sources have come from outside of Toronto as the Raptors organization has been one of the more tip-lipped franchises in the Association. However, with the opportunity to make significant noise in a weak Eastern Conference this season, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has been talking with a lot of other GMs about what could be possible at the trade deadline this season.

 

 

The real question in Toronto isn’t whether or not Ujiri has been talking about what’s possible to get for his two third year players, but rather is there anything out there available that’s better than the players Toronto already has?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Terrence Ross shooting warmups Paul Saini FYLMM

The Enigma That Is The Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross

Guest Feature

Terrence Ross has been described as a key piece to the Toronto Raptors future, a guy who can help take the Raptors to the next level, however, up to this point, he has failed to really earn that status. A highly skilled player in his third year, Ross seems to be behind in his development compared to his teammate Jonas Valanciunas. More was expected from the enigma that is Ross this season.

Up until recently, Ross had mostly been playing at small forward with shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and by using Ross at the three spot, the organization is implying that he is already at a good enough level to play out of position. This would be the right thing to do as a team going forward, if Ross had actually shown any signs of improvement.

However, Ross’ offensive stats are down across the board from last year and he has essentially been on a downward trend since the anomaly that was his 51 point game against the Clippers. Ross’ free throw attempts are down, his field goal percentage is down and his catch and shoot percentages have also decreased.

Ross is supposed to be a floor spacer because of his 3 point shooting and he has shown that he can bring that to the table. He takes about five three-point shots a game and makes almost two, but for a guy with that much athleticism, it makes you wonder why he does not put the ball on the floor more and try get to the free throw line. This might be due to the fact that Ross doesn’t dribble efficiently with either hand, especially in a way that would allow him to create scoring opportunities for himself. He only rarely dribbles into the lane for a pull up jumper or a little push shot. His offensive game just hasn’t grown significantly since his sophomore year and this is a concern for a 24 year old player even if he still might have a lot of upside.

On the opposing end Ross initially made his mark as a potential defensive stopper, however, that just hasn’t been there this season. Not for lack of effort, but Ross seems just a bit slow laterally, defensively at least. He is struggling to contain dribble penetration, he isn’t really good at chasing shooters off screens, and does not use his athleticism to rebound consistently or contest shots effectively. Ross is a slightly below average defender at this point and when your other wing player is DeRozan, you need a defensive stopper beside him.

President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has a big decision to make. Ross is showing warning signs of becoming a draft bust, especially considering that he was chosen over Andre Drummond and only two spots behind a guy like Damian Lillard, who is the same age, and has improved his game every single year. Ross may not be as talented as those players, but he still has a lot of talent, and could be much more than just a ‘3-and-D’ guy. However, at this point, he is still struggling to establish himself as a defensive player. It is frustrating for the fans and the organization because Ross shows glimpses through his inconsistency.

Ujiri’s solution could be shopping Ross with a pick because, if this team wants to take the next step, a player who can produce on both ends at the starting 3 spot is vital. When your best player in Kyle Lowry turns 29, and the conference seems to look wide open for the next 2-3 years, it might be smart to improve as fast as you can.

 

 
Gerald Baffour is a young freelance writer who constantly has basketball on the brain. He doesn’t believe in having a voice unless it sounds like Hubie Brown.

photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

 

Terrence Ross in purple Paul Saini FYLMM

Raptors Terrence Ross Isn’t Trade Bait

Since Head Coach Dwane Casey dropped third year wing Terrence Ross from the starting lineup, the Toronto Raptors have four wins, just one loss and are holding opponents to 93.6 points per game, however, that doesn’t mean the organization has given up on the soon-to-be 24-year-old. Ross isn’t trade bait.

League sources have told Sporting News’ Sean Deveney that there isn’t much other teams could do to pry Ross away from Toronto at this point.

according to league sources, Ross is going nowhere. “Absolutely not,” one rival executive told Sporting News. “They still have a lot of belief in him and there is not much you could do to get him from them.”

This statement ties in to what Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has been saying since he arrived in Toronto. He likes to develop his own young players.

Ujiri has a future-oriented vision for his team. While acknowledging the opportunities in a wide-open Eastern Conference, there is little likelihood of Ujiri trading an asset with future potential for a rent-a-player that could help improve his team’s fortunes this season.

However, the GM with the golden trade touch shouldn’t be so quickly discounted from being willing to trade draft picks, young players or even Ross provided he believes the assets he is getting back improve the Raptors position both now and in the future. That approach is going to get the kind of response from other general managers that Sporting News is hearing.

The reasons for the Raptors not shopping Ross despite the opportunities in the East and the young wing’s inconsistent play should be obvious. Ross has potential.

Last season Ross tied the franchise record held by Vince Carter for points in a game with 51. After being inserted into the starting lineup in December 2013, Ross’ play noticeably improved and despite a rough first round playoff series against the Nets, his ‘3-and-D’ potential grew. High-flying hi-light reel dunkers with a solid long ball that have also made hi-light reel worthy defensive stops don’t exactly grow on trees – even if putting all of that together for extended periods hasn’t happened yet.

It was hoped Ross would build on last year’s experience, however, he has been maddeningly inconsistent all season. Periodic strong games have been interspersed with extended disappearing acts, but the potential is still there and it’s still obvious. The Raptors understandably remain very reluctant to give up on a talented young player with another year remaining on his rookie contract.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

 
Ross Media DayRaptors Terrence Ross Credits GM Ujiri For His Progress

“I don’t feel like a rookie,” Ross said. “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.”

 

 

 

Ross and Harris

Raptors Should Trade for Magic Forward Tobias Harris

There should no doubt in anyone’s mind that the NBA’s Eastern Conference is there for the taking. If ever there was a time to make a move, to take a chance, this is it.

Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is both cautious and aggressive. He will not sacrifice real future potential for a likely four month rental, but by going after Magic small forward Tobias Harris, he could have his cake and eat it too.

In the final year of his rookie deal, the 22-year-old Harris is having a breakout season. Double-digit scoring in every game that he has played in this season, Harris is arguably the best player on the Magic, but he’s a player the Magic just might be willing to part with according to Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler.

Harris and the Magic did not reach an extension this past October, making him a free agent in July … do the Magic want to risk a price tag north of $12 million a year for Harris or could he return something significant for a team that’s not terribly better than they were last season.

Given where the Magic are in the standings it seems unlikely that they sit out the trade market, especially with so many teams shopping for parts and the Magic having some to sell.

The Florida-based Kyler has been covering the NBA for 17 seasons, if he sees trade smoke in Orlando, there’s a fire somewhere.

One glaring hole in the Raptors starting lineup that has become especially obvious since DeMar DeRozan was injured has been Terrence Ross. It was hoped that Ross would step up in DeRozan’s absence, but despite some small statistical improvements that are largely the result of averaging about 4 more minutes per game, Ross has remained inconsistent and even back-slid a little. Head Coach Dwane Casey quite correctly admonishes that Ross is only in his third season and won’t become a veteran overnight, no matter what the circumstances, but in a very tight Eastern Conference race, that’s exactly what the Raptors needed.

The uber-athletic Ross seems to drive to the basket even less often than he did before DeRozan was hurt, gets to the free throw line less than once per game and even his three-point shooting average has dipped a bit with the increased defensive attention. He is scoring over 12 points per game as a third or fourth option over the past six weeks and continues to show what could be at both ends of the court in spurts, but this doesn’t look like the year Ross will breakout.

However, to suggest Ross doesn’t continue to have a high ceiling or significant trade value would be a mistake. Few players have scored 51 points in a game like Ross did last year and have the tools to become a lockdown defender, deadly three-point threat and a regular highlight reel dunker – it just might not happen this year. Ross is precisely the type of asset that could fit the Magic’s current longer term player development plan.

Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins provides the description Ujiri would be looking for to justify any deal that would sent his young prospect out of town for help this season and beyond.

“T.B. works so hard, man,” guard Victor Oladipo said. “I’m glad he’s on my team. After watching him this summer, and watching how hard he worked and how [much] better he’s gotten, nobody in this locker room deserves it more than him.”

“I think that just comes from the endless hours in the gym when nobody’s watching and getting those repetitions and getting those shots up,” Harris said.

“He plays with a lot confidence,” center Nikola Vucevic said. “That comes from him working so hard. He put a lot of time in this summer to improve his game, and he did. Every day, you’d see him work out and try to get better, and it shows on the court. It all comes from that.”

The Raptors other need this season has been rebounding and Harris averages 6.9 boards per game. He might not continue to average 18 points per game in Toronto, especially after DeRozan returns, but he has been shooting 40 percent from three and getting to the line 3.9 times per game. Harris can fill Ross’ role in the Raptors rotation and give them a needed boost in confidence, size and experience. It’s a solid bet that Toronto would be noticeably better post trade.

Recent trades suggest Ujiri is not going to be able to trade Ross for Harris straight up. A first round draft pick will almost certainly be required to grease the wheels, but the addition of Harris to the Raptors rotation would significantly improve their outlook now without detracting from the team’s future potential.

Harris is expected to be a restricted free agent after this season and moving to a playoff bound team would help to more accurately set his value. Kyler’s suggestion, north of $12 million, may not be too far off, however, the Raptors can afford to keep a player in that price range and Harris seems to fit the value-mold in Toronto.

The winner of such a trade probably wouldn’t be known for several seasons, but the opportunity to make a run at the NBA Finals doesn’t come along every year. Ross plus this year’s first round draft pick isn’t too big a price to pay for the chance.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Ross Media DayRaptors Terrence Ross Credits GM Ujiri For His Progress

“I don’t feel like a rookie,” Ross said. “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.”

 

 

T RossThe Raptors Terrence Ross Is Set To Breakout This Season

“It is a lot less stressful,” Ross said. “It is harder, but in some ways you can play a little more freely. Just knowing that I am going to get the chance to keep playing, I am always going to get the opportunity, you don’t have to rush it and try to prove yourself as much, so now you just play your game and they keep me on the court. Now I just have to sharpen it up and make sure I don’t make many mistakes.”

 

 

Amir Lowry and DeRozan

Toronto Raptors New Year’s Hopes And Wishes

When a team has been residing at the top of their Conference for nearly the entire season, there shouldn’t be too many hopes and wishes for the New Year. However, things could always get better if President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri could apply his magic touch to this roster one more time or maybe a little more good luck was to appear in Toronto.

There are hopes and wishes to be fulfilled at nearly every position on the Raptors.

 

Point Guard

Raptors Media DayUjiri has made it perfectly clear and just in case someone wasn’t listening, get busy and vote Kyle Lowry to start for the NBA’s Eastern Conference All-Star team. Lowry has carried this team on his shoulders since DeMar DeRozan was injured and can lay claim to being the best point guard in franchise history. He’s earned the fans’ support and having a player voted to the All-Star team is one of this franchise’s biggest wishes.

 

Tyler Ennis media scrum 3During the NBA Draft process, Ujiri never hid his interest in acquiring Canadian prospect Tyler Ennis, but for some unknown reason, the point guard heavy Suns took him just two spots ahead of Toronto to bury him four players back at the point guard spot on their roster. Ennis has played all of 51 minutes in Phoenix. Maybe Ujiri could dangle rookie center Lucas Nogueira to acquire Ennis as the Raptors third string point guard?

 

Shooting Guard

Raptors Media DayWhen DeMar DeRozan injured his Adductor tendon (groin strain), everyone knew this could take a while, but it’s been over a month and the organization, teammates and fans have been left hoping for his quick return. DeRozan has looked good working out on the sidelines lately, so his indeterminate return date is starting to look closer. The wish in Toronto now is for DeRozan to become the missing piece to an NBA Finals run.

 

Small Forward

Ujiri scored big when he picked up James Johnson as a free agent this summer, but this year’s hopes and wishes are still tied to the development of the enigmatic Terrence Ross.

Raptors Media DayRoss can shoot the long ball, he is high-flyer who can finish spectacularly around the rim and he teases everyone with signs of becoming a dramatic lockdown defender. The wish is for consistency. Ross still disappears during games, forgets to drive into open lanes to take unnecessary long jump shots and often plays like the young inexperienced player that he is at both ends of the court. The hope is he can start putting it all together more frequently in time for the playoffs.

 

Power Forward

Amir JohnsonThe Raptors are hoping Amir Johnson’s ankles hold up in a big way. The team has depth at power forward, but Johnson is the Raptors defensive anchor and primary backup to Jonas Valanciunas at center, they don’t really have a replacement for what he brings to the table.

There are those who are wishing for an upgrade or even just a more reliable replacement for Johnson, but he and DeRozan are the longest tenured players in Toronto and Amir Johnson provides a big part of the glue that makes up the Raptors chemistry. It would be very risky to take the fan and team-favorite Johnson out of the Raptors rotation during the season. Toronto is hoping he stays healthy.

 

Center

Raptors Media DayThe Raptors best rebounder by a wide margin has been Valanciunas and on a team that can only barely hold their own on the boards, this young center has been taking an increasingly pivotal role. The hope is he keeps improving at the same pace witnessed going back to last season. He is the Raptors present and future under the rim.

The wish is for some rebounding help. While Head Coach Dwane Casey has been doing a good job of managing Johnson’s minutes, Toronto has been playing their starting power forward too many minutes at center and they need to take the pressure off his ankles if they want him fresh for the playoffs.

Chuck Hayes has been great in specialty situations and has even been the difference in several Raptors wins, but at 6’6, they can’t count on him to grab boards over 7-footers. Tyler Hansbrough steps in nearly every night to soak up a few minutes at center and brings his hard hat, but he is 6’9, primarily a below the rim player and better at battling with power forwards.

While this backup center by committee approach has proven to be more than adequate in most games, a veteran athletic big man that can grab boards and block shots is high on Ujiri’s wish list – unfortunately that kind of player is also high on a lot of other teams’ wish lists as well.

 

A GM’s job is never done and the Raptors have hopes and wishes for the New Year. Fortunately, outside of a couple of possible roster tweaks, the Raptors best chance at a dramatic improvement is already in their own locker room. It isn’t often a team can hold onto first place in the conference while their only All-Star is out of action for over a month. This team’s best hope for taking another step comes when DeRozan returns, but their biggest wish while they wait is for their fans to vote Lowry onto the All-Star team.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

TOR DeRozan Lowry ValanciunasRaptors No. 1 In Attendance But Not In All-Star Voting

After 30 games, 17 of them at home, the Toronto Raptors lead the NBA in attendance at 334,624, but their fans just aren’t getting the job done in the All-Star voting. In the early All-Star ballot returns, Toronto doesn’t have any players even close to being voted into the big game.

 

 

Landry Fields - croppedThe Toronto Raptors Landry Fields Showcase

Fields has the highest salary of any player on the Raptors who isn’t part of the regular rotation and that big expiring contract could make him a key piece in any trade President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri might make in an attempt to upgrade the team’s roster for the postseason and beyond.

 

 

 

TOR Ross and Valanciunas

Ross And Valanciunas Lead Raptors Past Thunder

Meeting and exceeding some very high expectations this season in Toronto means the sophomores Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have to take another step and in the Raptors preseason tilt against the Thunder in Wichita Kansas on Friday night, they did just that.

The game turned into a 19 point blowout for Toronto and the unlikely lineup of Will Cherry, Jordan Hamilton, Bruno Caboclo, Tyler Hansbrough and Greg Stiemsma played most of the fourth quarter, however, Ross and Valanciunas left their mark earlier on.

The Raptors gave Ross the green light to shoot when he’s open and the 23-year-old put up 18 shots in 25.5 minutes and hit 9 including 4-10 from deep for 22 points to lead all scorers. They were not all catch and shoot or fast break opportunities, he made some nice moves to shake the defender and nail the jumper.  It was a solid all-around effort.

Valanciunas had 14 points in 20.7 minutes by getting to the free throw line for 6-7 and generally working hard in the post.  He was matched up with Steven Adams who played well, but fouled out in 24 minutes.  Valanciunas was a noticeably heavy load down low.

The two teams starting units each scored 62 points and provided some excellent minutes for each other to work off the rust.

However, the Thunder has injury problems beyond just Kevin Durant and their bench was put to the test by the Raptors very deep second unit.  They didn’t fair much better against Toronto’s training camp invites.  It got ugly fast when Coach Scott Brooks pulled his starters.  The Raptors reserves are fighting for minutes and jobs, they weren’t about to let up.

Lou Williams looked like he was playing a team from the summer as he scored at will with a very quick 11 points.  Hamilton continues to show he can fill the basket – at least in preseason games.  He had 13 points on 5-9 from the field.

The most impressive player on the court for the Thunder was 22-year-old shooting guard Andre Roberson.  He gave DeMar DeRozan a hard time while shooting 7-9 for 15 points to go with 10 rebounds and 3 assists in 34.9 minutes.  His over-aggressive defensive on DeRozan put him in foul trouble early, but Roberson played well with 4 first half personal fouls and managed to stay on the court.

DeRozan might want to thank Roberson for the practice.  The Raptors All-Star got to the charity strip for 11 free throws in 22.7 minutes and had to work for his points.

Amir Johnson left the game after playing just 12.7 minutes when his left foot was stepped on.  Watching him hobble off the court on one foot was disconcerting, but the incident that caused the injury didn’t look like something to be worried about.

Greivis Vasquez missed the game with a possible concussion.  He was struck in the head by a ball during shoot-around.

The Raptors next preseason game is against Maccabi Haifa in Toronto on October 22.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

TOR James Johnson Vasquez and WilliamsIs The Raptors Rotation Already Set For The Season?

Last year’s franchise record setting starting lineup is back and unless someone gets hurt, they’ll be the starters for every game this season. Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir Johnson and Valanciunas led the Raptors to the best record in the entire Eastern Conference (41-22) after the seven-player trade with Sacramento in December.

 

 

 

Ross Media Day

Raptors Terrence Ross Credits GM Ujiri For His Progress

By all accounts it was a big summer for the Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross. The typical, ‘I’ve put on 15 pounds’ and ‘I learned a lot from my playoff experience’, needs to be put in the context of a young player entering his third NBA season. Ross has started to figure things out and he has been pushed hard by President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri to get better. Expectations are justifiably higher this time around.

 


“I don’t feel like a rookie,” Ross said. “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.”

Starting in the playoffs was huge for Ross and Head Coach Dwane Casey kept throwing him out there even as he struggled against Joe Johnson because of irreplaceable value of this experience. However, the biggest help to Ross’ progress was starting 62 games last season.

“I think playoffs helped me with a different type of development,” Ross said. “Also being here early in the season and starting and taking that challenge on, I think that was the biggest thing for me. It helps you with consistency. If your shot is not falling one night, what else can you do to try to contribute? There were a few different things I worked on this summer to try to be more consistent.

“I think I went over it once with Casey about the last play (against the Nets) – it is almost too hard to watch.”

It was a different Ross prior to training camp this season. There was an underlying confidence that comes from knowing one is better than before and an understanding he has a long ways to go. The quiet guard seemed more focused on the task at hand than in his first two training camps.

“I just feel like wherever I am currently, I can always get better from there,” Ross said. “I feel like even where I am at right now there is a lot more to go. I am never going to be complacent or content where I am at and the biggest thing for me is just staying focused and understanding what it takes to get to where you are at and to get further than where you are at.

“I am anxious to get into another season, but I got to slow down and realize we have to start off the season right to get to where you want to go. Right now, I am just trying to stay focused and stay ready.

“I just took it upon myself to go further than I did last year and that is always going to be my new thing – do a little more than you did last year.”

Ross confirms something that has become evident over the past twelve months. The change in the team, its players, the entire environment around the Air Canada Centre comes from the top. Without President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri, this wouldn’t be the same group.

“I feel like Masai is always going to be right there to help me, give me that push, and I give him credit for my development,” Ross said. “He is always telling me, ‘you got to do better, you got to do better, you got to do better’. I accepted the challenge to get better and it’s only helping me.”

Watch out for Ross. He should be one the league’s breakout candidates this season.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

T RossThe Raptors Terrence Ross Is Set To Breakout This Season

 

 

Ross and BarnesRaptors Terrence Ross Vs Warriors Harrison Barnes

 

 

Ross and Barnes

Raptors Terrence Ross Vs Warriors Harrison Barnes

The Raptors were hoping Harrison Barnes would fall to them at 8th in the 2012 NBA Draft, however, Barnes went to the Warriors at seven and then Toronto passed on Andre Drummond to take who they believed was the next best wing player available. The surprise was Toronto didn’t take Jeremy Lamb, but rather the less known collegian Terrence Ross.

How Barnes ended up in Golden State was something of a controversy in Toronto. In the final game of the season, the Nets faced off against the Raptors in a battle for the sixth worst record overall having already given away their first round draft pick to the Trail Blazers and they threw it – with gusto. A 98-67 Raptors win where the Nets looked like a team that was told to lose. Barely ever heard of Ben Uzoh had a triple-double and raw prospect center Solomon Alibi had 11 points and 19 rebounds for the Raptors – okay, Toronto was trying to lose as well, but the Nets looked like a team that would have started scoring for Toronto if necessary.

The Raptors lost a tie-breaker with Golden State to end up picking 8th and all the lamenting in the world wasn’t going to get Barnes in a Toronto uniform after that.

It’s been two full seasons since then, so how do the Barnes vs. Ross comparisons look now?

Barnes had the better two-year college career, but numbers wise, Ross had caught up as a sophomore, however, Barnes at 6’8 228 lbs with a 38” standing vertical had the size and hops Ross couldn’t match at 6’7 197 lbs and 31” no-step vertical – even if Ross could almost jump as high when both players had a running start.

As NBA rookies, there was no comparison. Barnes started 81 games and averaged 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and shot 35.9 percent from three-point range on a 47-win team. He was a top 10 rookie with promise. Ross came off the bench for the 34-win Raptors and never did anything to suggest he should start. He averaged 6.4 points and 2 rebounds and as a three-point shooter coming into the league, he only hit on 33.2 percent of them. Ross wasn’t a bust, but he wasn’t getting it done on the court either.

The only thing Ross could point to from his rookie season was winning the NBA Slam Dunk competition during All-Star weekend – a nice feather in his cap he would have traded for a better jump shot.

A terrible NBA Summer League threw even more doubts Ross’ way and with Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan on the Raptors roster to start the season, Ross was still stuck coming off the bench.

Barnes had his own problems going into his sophomore season. After an outstanding playoff performance, the Warriors had signed Andre Iguodala as a free agent anyway and Barnes was going from starter to second string. Barnes did get 24 starts and his minutes actually went up by 11 percent, but there was no big sophomore bump. Barnes averaged 9.5 points and 4 rebounds and his per minute production and shooting took a noticeable step back – Barnes two-point shooting dropped to 41.9 percent from 46.4 and his three-point shooting fell to 34.7 percent. All this while his team won 51 games.

Ross’ season turned on the Rudy Gay trade in December when he joined a Raptors starting unit that won the most games in franchise history. Toronto reversed a 6-12 start to the season and their fortunes of a year earlier to win 48 games. Ross averaged 10.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and shot 39.5 percent from three-point range on the season, numbers that improved to 12.2 points, 3.3 boards and over 40 percent from deep as a starter. Ross got accolades on his defense from his coach most nights and started to look like a three-and-D type of player.

It was another strong showing for Ross at the NBA’s Slam Dunk competition this time as well and the Eastern Conference participants were declared the winners – not that doing well in Slam Dunk competitions means much in real games. Barnes was one of three players representing the Western Conference this time.

The in-season success didn’t translate for Ross in the playoffs like it did initially for Barnes, although Barnes had his own struggles last April as well.

After two NBA seasons, Ross’ per minute numbers and shooting percentages are on the rise and passing those of the stagnating/slipping Barnes. Ross has become a player that can be envisioned as a big piece of the Raptors future while Barnes is decidedly headed in the opposite direction according to Nate Parham in SB Nation’s Golden State of Mind.

“Right now, that’s the mystery with Barnes: he’s a mixed bag of skills that don’t match his physical tools and it just isn’t clear what role he’ll ever find to justify the expectations that people have for him.”

“Ultimately, Barnes has a lot to overcome and it seems that the closer you interrogate the more optimistic projections the harder it becomes to believe the hype.”

In the Barnes versus Ross comparisons, maybe the Nets did the Raptors a favor in April of 2012.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Why Landry Fields still with the Raptors
Last season Landry Fields had a chance to be a regular rotation player if his right arm was working, however, he’ll come into camp this time as a third string player from day one. “I thought about even switching to my left hand and shooting left-handed.” Fields said.

Terrence Ross by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm

The Raptors Terrence Ross Is Set To Breakout This Season

Head Coach Dwane Casey never let up on the mantra, the Raptors 2013-2014 season was all about the development of Terrence Ross and to be fair, Casey usually mentioned DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas at the same time. However, a lot of effort was expended on Ross and the hoped for payoff is a breakout season for the 23-year-old wing starting in October.

“It’s about (Ross’) growth,” Casey said in November. “He is growing as a player and that is what this year is all about. It is him growing.”

The effort paid off and Ross started showing noticeable improvement almost as soon as he was inserted into the starting lineup in December.

“It is a lot less stressful,” Ross said at the time. “It is harder, but in some ways you can play a little more freely. Just knowing that I am going to get the chance to keep playing, I am always going to get the opportunity, you don’t have to rush it and try to prove yourself as much, so now you just play your game and they keep me on the court. Now I just have to sharpen it up and make sure I don’t make many mistakes.”

Finding consistency and overcoming mistakes was the goal and during the season the recently acquired John Salmons was often asked to pick Ross up when he got in a bit of trouble. However, as a starter, Ross did find at least one aspect of his game had rounded into the form anticipated when he was drafted. Ross found the range from deep and improved his three-point shooting from 33.2 percent as a rookie to over 40 percent in 62 games as a starter.

“I have played enough that I understand what certain guys will let you get away with, what you can do and what you can’t do,” Ross said. “Once you play (them) a few times, you understand what they do and you don’t fall for some of the things (veterans) do now. I have played enough against these guys now to understand what they do and what I can get away with and what they try to get away with.”

“He can become an elite shooter,” Casey said. “He has that ability.”

Ross also started to show what he could do on the defensive end of the court. Not every night or against every opponent, but Ross was beginning to get comfortable defensively on the wing.

“I have always been a defensive-minded player and I think the more I got to play the more it showed,” Ross said. “Once you get confidence, you play at a different level, so I try to maintain my confidence, go out a play with the opportunity (Casey) is providing me.”

“Terrence – focus, concentration, understanding what he has to do on the defensive end, staying connected to his guys, not getting lost in traffic, he is doing a better job of that,” Casey said. “He is doing a pretty good job of rebounding and that has helped him a lot.”

The improvement witnessed during the regular season ran into a brick wall called Joe Johnson and the Nets once the playoffs started. For the first time in months Ross looked overwhelmed. The best reason Casey could come up with for sticking with Ross in the starting lineup was his sophomore was soaking up minutes and learning on the job.

“I think (Ross) is soaking up some minutes,” Casey said. “Both (sophomores) are soaking up big minutes. Probably, if they weren’t young guys, they probably wouldn’t be. If it wasn’t our future, our direction, (they) probably wouldn’t be in there with some of the mistakes they are making.

“They are our guys. They got to learn, this is their first playoff. I expect a lot of their mistakes, so we are going to ride with them in those situations.

“It’s tough, but at the same time, they are a big part of the reason why we are here. The way they have played as sophomores and the mistakes they are making are freshmen/sophomore mistakes in the playoffs. I am not blind to the fact that they are our future and the only way they are going to learn is to go through it.”

Casey’s mantra never changed. Even the possibility of making it to the second round of the playoffs was not as important as developing the Raptors young players so that this team could be better next season and Ross did learn from his experience.

“It’s hard because this is what they do,” Ross said during the playoffs. “They have been doing this for a long time. It is their experience that helps them out. It’s tough. You can’t really explain it until you have been in it.

“In the playoffs you are playing the same team so many times it’s like they know what you are going to do so you have to counter and (another) move to go to and make sure you have a counter to the counter.”

Finally, in Game Seven against the Nets, the light came on for Ross and he started to figure things out. He took the next step and made a big defensive play against a veteran to give his team one more chance to steal a playoff game.

“Just to focus on more than trying to shoot and score, I just try to do a little bit of everything,” Ross said. “Defense was my main priority, you can’t really control whether the ball goes in or not, but you can always control your defensive effort and that was a big thing for me. I was just trying to do whatever I could to help the team.”

It seemed like Ross finally understood what the words he was saying actually meant and playoff experience can do that for a young player.

Ross was what Casey called a natural shooter coming out of college and now that he has found his stroke, there is no reason to expect his three-point 40 percent shooting form to disappear. Confidence in his shot and a lot of hard work in the summer should let Ross add some things to his offensive arsenal. He already has the athleticism to finish at the rim if he can figure out how and when to take advantage of it. However, it is his defensive potential that still catches Casey’s attention.

“Now he has experience to draw back from in reading situations,” Casey said at the end of the season. “Then his athletic instincts, his hands, his speed and quickness kicks-in after that. I don’t want to anoint him as a defensive stopper, but he is growing into that role, doing a good job with it, learning – learning each time out.”

Ross believes he is a defensive-minded player and those same tools that could add to his offensive arsenal can turn him into a defensive stopper on the wing as well. The playoff experience opened Ross’ eyes as to how far he still has to go to become a good NBA player and the timing of that somewhat brutally rough experience guarding Joe Johnson in games that mattered couldn’t have been better. Not every lottery draft pick benefits from a seven game playoff series against a veteran laden team in just their second season and as much as Ross improved during the regular season, he wouldn’t have realized just how much further he had to go and how much harder he needed to work in the summer without the lessons learned in the postseason.

“I’ve built a relationship with (Coach) Casey,” Ross said. “He’s been a great coach. He has taught me a lot, especially when it comes to defense. I give him a lot of credit for how I play on the court.”

Casey’s focus on player development during the regular season and playoffs should be expected to payoff with a much improved Ross patrolling the wing for the Raptors this time around. A breakout season really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

photo credit Paul Saini, Fylmm.com

 

 

T Ross

Can Raptors Terrence Ross Be A 3-And-D Or More?

The Toronto Raptors sophomore Terrence Ross was drafted because of his shooting stroke and defensive potential and after the Rudy Gay trade, those skills started to show. Head Coach Dwane talked about how Ross was developing over the course of last season and that he wants him to be more than a 3-and-D guy.
 

 

“Now he has experience to draw back from in reading situations,” Casey said. “Then his athletic instincts, his hands, his speed and quickness kicks-in after that.

“I don’t want to anoint him as a defensive stopper, but he is growing into that role, doing a good job with it, learning – learning each time out.

“3-and-D, I like that, that’s pretty good. That’s probably pretty good description. We want him to be more of a pick-and-roll guy, that’s the next step in (his) growth.”

Ross played well during the regular season after the Gay trade, but his stats started to tail off over the last month and in the playoffs, he really struggled. There was probably an element of fatigue as the season wore on, Ross had never played that many minutes before and the playoff intensity definitely caught him by surprise.

The sophomore wing has a lot to work on over the summer to live up to the 3-and-D tag he was starting to earn and develop the pick-and-roll game Casey wants to see from him next season.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Raptors Are Still Player Development First In The Playoffs
“It’s tough, but at the same time, they are a big part of the reason why we are here. The way they have played as sophomores and the mistakes they are making are freshmen/sophomore mistakes in the playoffs. I am not blind to the fact that they are our future and the only way they are going to learn is to go through it.”

Raptors Logo photo

Unedited Raptors Players Season-Ending Comments (Audio)

The Toronto Raptors players had a lot to say during the season-ending media availability. Catch up on the full unedited comments from each of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez.

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry - web

“I want to be happy, I want to win,” Lowry said. “But, it’s something me and my agent have to talk about, but I know I want to win and that’s important to me.

“I love this place. I love this situation. It is as simple as that. The best 14 other guys I have had in a locker room in my career.”

 

 Terrence Ross

TOR Ross preseason 2013

“I’ve built a relationship with (Coach) Casey,” Ross said. “He’s been a great coach. He has taught me a lot, especially when it comes to defense. I give him a lot of credit for how I play on the court.”

 

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm.com)

“I didn’t say that,” DeRozan responded. “I didn’t say (Kyle Lowry) was (re-signing). I didn’t say he wasn’t. I just said I wasn’t worried about it.”

 

Amir Johnson

TOR Amir Johnson head shot web

“I just feel like we have been in it together,” said Johnson. “We definitely grinded it out to get to where we are now, it’s just been an amazing journey. We can keep working, keep continuing to get better. We have been sticking together to get better and better every year. Of course we’ve been through the ups and downs, but it’s just great to see how we have improved.”

 

 Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas practice shot by Paul Saini (Fylmm.com)

“This group of guys, it wasn’t just a team, it was like a family,” Jonas Valanciunas said. “It is really important to keep the same attitude, keep the same in the locker room.”

 

 Patrick Patterson

SAC_Patterson_Patrick

“This was my first time being on a team where everybody accepted their roles, where everybody was per se happy,” Patterson said. “This was my first time being in a positive environment where everybody was supporting one another.”
 

Greivis Vasquez

Greivis Vasquez shooting by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm.com)

“I remember one time I came into the office and we had a talk,” Vasquez said. “(Coach Casey’s) talk with me was very inspirational because he was talking about when he won a championship with Dallas. He even showed me his ring, the championship ring. This guy did so much and really got us right. As a leader, you got to give him a lot of credit. He did a great job. I think he got better throughout the season, we gradually got better and the coaching staff was great.”

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Raptors Day podium by MoVernie
The City Of Toronto Shows It’s Love For The Raptors
The City of Toronto led by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly declared Monday as ‘Raptors Day’ to thank the NBA club for its incredible season as described by Vernon Chang (MoVernie) from the scene. “As I walked over to the Nathan Phillips Square, I saw the main stage was set up near the entrance of City Hall,” Chang said. “A flag bearer came out with the Canadian Flag followed by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, some City councillors, Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey, Greivis Vasquez and Raptors famous mascot.”
 

TOR Ross and Vasquez

Should Greivis Vasquez Start For The Raptors In Game Seven?

In Game Six, Head Coach Jason Kidd started Alan Anderson so his Nets could throw more effective double-teams at Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. It worked and Toronto never made up the first quarter deficit. The Raptors cannot afford a bad start in Game Seven, so if the Nets go back to their Game Six strategy, Head Coach Dwane Casey shouldn’t wait to see if both Lowry and DeRozan can beat the defense on their own.

The Raptors most effective counter move to other team’s taking the ball out of their best players’ hands has been to insert Greivis Vasquez as a second point guard. Vasquez led the NBA in total assists last season and is a solid outside shooter and respectable ball handler. In single coverage, he will find the open man and he is definitely not afraid to shoot. Double teams fired out to cover Lowry and DeRozan will be a lot harder to manage with Vasquez in the game.

Vasquez is averaging 11.5 points, 4 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 27.3 minutes over the past six games. His team is +45 points with him on the court in this series. The big guard is shooting 42.6 percent from the field and hitting 38.5 percent from three-point range. He can hit the big shots in the critical moments. The Nets have to guard him.

Worried about playing Vasquez too many minutes? Not in a Game Seven and really not anytime. Vasquez played 40 minutes twice in April before the playoffs started. He can handle it.

That’s the sales pitch, but there is another reason for getting a more veteran player into the starting lineup.

The Toronto Raptors have been starting and playing two sophomores big minutes in their first round playoff series with the Nets and while Casey says both Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have been making the expected mistakes, Valanciunas has put up some monster numbers while Ross has struggled at both ends of the court.

In his first six playoff games, Ross is averaging 21.2 minutes, 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1.2 turnovers, 2.3 fouls, 25.7 percent shooting from the field and 19 percent shooting from deep. The Raptors are -22 points while he is on the court in this series and it’s only that good because of Toronto’s big start in Game Five. He’s learning and this experience will help both Ross and the Raptors in the future, but this is Game Seven and if he comes off the bench for just this one game, the Raptors chances of moving on to the second round of the playoffs will go up.

While Casey can hope Ross can spread the floor for Lowry and DeRozan, it hasn’t worked so far in this series and Ross is still developing his playmaking skills. Some of the ugliest passes of the series have come when Ross tried to create off the drive. The Nets aren’t ignoring Ross, but they aren’t taking him as a serious threat either, Toronto has almost been playing a man short offensively at times. Ross isn’t even a good decoy when the Nets know he isn’t hitting shots and that’s a big part of the reason those Nets double-teams have been so effective.

Casey won’t throw his sophomores under the bus and he shouldn’t. Valanciunas and Ross are a big part of the Raptors future. However, this team has a chance to do something this franchise has never done before – win a seven game playoff series. Wouldn’t it be okay to put player development on the back burner for just one game this season?

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Does An Early Start Hurt The Raptors In Game Seven
“At the beginning of the year we talked about being resilient, being the ‘Freddy Krueger’, always keep playing, keep coming, not giving in,” Casey said. “We have developed that personality and that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be behind, but whatever happens, we know we have some fight and grit left in the tank to compete.”

This Is The Best Raptors Team In Franchise History
Objectively, the 2013-14 Raptors have their best regular season record, best road record, best record against the Western Conference facing the toughest Western Conference schedule and have won by the biggest margin of victory over the season of any Raptors team. However, in some ways, that isn’t the half of it.

Terrence Ross by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm

Raptors Terrence Ross Is Learning From The Playoff Grind

The Toronto Raptors young sophomore Terrence Ross has been struggling through his first playoff series. His scoring is way down from the regular season and his shooting percentages are in the tank. He has been making mistakes on defense and uncharacteristically throwing the ball away as well. It’s all new to him and it is obvious the pressure was more than he expected off the start. There are signs, however, that he is starting to adjust and find his playoff legs.

“It’s a grind and every possession counts,” Ross said. “It’s like repetition almost where every possession counts.”

Struggles and mistakes are not something that surprises Head Coach Dwane Casey. This is a learning experience for the Raptors young players and he is going to keep throwing them out there.

“I think (Ross) is soaking up some minutes,” Casey said. “Both of (Ross and Valanciunas) are soaking up big minutes. Probably, if they weren’t young guys, they probably wouldn’t be. If it wasn’t our future, our direction, (they) probably wouldn’t be in there with some of the mistakes they are making.

“They are our guys. They got to learn, this is their first playoff. I expect a lot of their mistakes, so we are going to ride with them in those situations.”

The playoffs have been an eye opening experience for Ross. The things he got away with in the regular season become costly errors and defenders know what he likes to do and often take that away.

“For sure because in the playoffs you are playing the same team so many times it’s like they know what you are going to do so you have to counter and (another) move to go to and make sure you have a counter to the counter,” Ross said.

Playing against the veteran laden Brooklyn Nets has given Ross a new appreciation for what experience and playoff experience really means.

“It’s hard because this is what they do,” Ross said. “They have been doing this for a long time. It is their experience that helps them out. It’s tough.

“You can’t really explain it until you have been in it.”

This is DeMar DeRozan’s first time in the postseason as well, but DeRozan is a young veteran that has a significantly more developed skill set than Ross, so the Raptors All-Star is a lot harder to stop. However, the difference between playing the veteran Nets in the postseason compared to the regular season has been an eye opener for DeRozan as well.

“It’s a lot tougher because in the regular season you can get away with a lot of the moves you would normally do, go to plays that you would normally run and score easier, especially for myself,” DeRozan confirmed. “Now they take away all your strengths. They know what you like to go to, for me personally (its) pump fakes, so you try to get away from the pump fakes, little things like that that, they all know that, so you got to go out there and do other things on both ends.”

Ross is learning, his teammates are supporting him and he is showing signs of figuring out how he has to play in the postseason to be successful. Ross and the rest of the Raptors couldn’t have asked for a better first round opponent to teach them some hard playoff lessons.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Coach Casey Brings Playoff Experience To The Raptors
“It’s not my first rodeo in a playoffs situation,” Casey said. “You are not as comfortable after a win as you are down after a loss. You have to treat each game separately. We have to go into the next game as if we lost the last game. That’s the mentality you have to go in (with). You can’t go in too high and if we lost, we couldn’t go in too low.”

Raptors Learn At Nets Expense In A Big Game Five Win
“The whole series for us is a growing experience because we are such a young team,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey before the game. “First time in the playoffs for a lot of our key guys, so I am learning that they are growing from it, they are getting better in certain situations – still making mistakes in certain situations, but the adjustments part is something that is big for us – to change things on a day’s notice or even in games, that’s good to see.”

Terrence Ross Photo credit: Paul Saini

TOR Ross and Valanciunas

Raptors Are Still Player Development First In The Playoffs

Toronto Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey has said this season was all about the development of Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas since the beginning and although it should be obvious to all by now, he confirmed the Raptors are still all about player development in the playoffs as well.

After the game three loss in Brooklyn where Ross’ struggles were particularly evident, Casey confirmed this wasn’t anything unexpected.

“(Ross) struggled,” Casey said. “He just struggled. He had three turnovers. He played the way I figured he was going to play. They got into him. He just struggled getting off his mark. Believe me (though), Terrence is going to be okay.”

Ross is only hitting 1 shot per game and shooting 18.8 percent in the playoffs. He is making lots of mistakes on defense and turning the ball over as well. In his 63 minutes of playing time, the Raptors are -24 points with him on the court.

Valanciunas has put up three double-doubles in three games and set a new playoff record for rebounds in a game at 18, but the young center has been making his fair share of mistakes as well. Valanciunas is a -22 points over 100 minutes of playing time, however, Casey has no intentions of cutting back on the precious minutes of playoff experience for either sophomore.

“I think (Ross) is soaking up some minutes,” Casey said. “Both of them are soaking up big minutes. Probably, if they weren’t young guys, they probably wouldn’t be. If it wasn’t our future, our direction, (they) probably wouldn’t be in there with some of the mistakes they are making.

“They are our guys. They got to learn, this is their first playoff. I expect a lot of their mistakes, so we are going to ride with them in those situations.

“It’s tough, but at the same time, they are a big part of the reason why we are here. The way they have played as sophomores and the mistakes they are making are freshmen/sophomore mistakes in the playoffs. I am not blind to the fact that they are our future and the only way they are going to learn is to go through it.”

Expect any calls from the fans or the media to significantly change the playing time of either sophomore to fall on deaf ears. This Raptors season has always been about next year and there is no substitute for playing time in the playoffs. Toronto will win or lose their first round series with Brooklyn playing like they have all season. It’s still player development first for the Raptors.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Is The Beast Of The Playoff East
“I am playing for my team,” Valanciunas said. “I am not playing for my stats. I want to give something for the team to win. I don’t look at the stats. I have 14 rebounds, I need one more, I don’t do that. I see that they can’t get a rebound and can I go take that rebound and protect the rim, that’s how I see it.”

Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross Is Blossoming On Defense
“(Ross’) experience has helped him (know) this is about to happen to me – this happened to me in the Clipper game – so they are doing the same (thing),” Casey explained. “Now he has experience to draw from (when) reading situations and that has helped him. Then his athletic instincts, his hands, his speed and quickness kicks in after that. Game experience has helped (Ross) and Jonas (Valanciunas) both in a lot of situations especially Terrence guarding some of the top scorers in the league.”

TOR Ross preseason 2013

Raptors Already Setting The Bar Higher For Next Year

The Toronto Raptors had already won their division and eclipsed the franchise record for wins in a season when they rolled into New York for game 82 and when the Bulls lost in Charlotte there was nothing left to play for in the regular season. Toronto was looking past this game towards a Saturday playoff matchup with the Nets long before the final whistle went. The Knicks won 95-92 when Chuck Hayes made a bad pass on an inbounds play to Nando De Colo and Smith stole it with 5 seconds left in the game. Enough said.

The Raptors had set out to change the culture in Toronto at the beginning of the year. To raise expectations and goals and no matter what happens in the playoffs, this team has succeeded. This season, the Raptors have accomplished something.

“It is a great accomplishment, especially from where we started from,” John Salmons said. “It is always something you can look back on and cherish, winning that many games and winning your division.

“It helps the guys that are coming in the future to set higher goals. When you are used to losing, it is hard to look past 47 wins, but once you get it, you want to get more. Next year, you want to strive for over 49 (wins), you want to get into the 50s and keep striving from there. With a young team, this is definitely headed in the right direction.”

There has been no point in the past six years anyone could have said the goal of this franchise was to set a new high water mark for wins in a season, however, just by doing it, expectations have been raised. Now the players believe they can do it and more every year.

“That’s where we set the bar,” Terrence Ross said. “That is what we should be doing every year – doing better. If we have an off year, we should end with 47 (wins). So now we just go from here and build on it.”

Especially with a young team, winning is motivation. These guys want to get back to this point or better and they know it only gets harder from here.

“It kind of sets the tone for how you want your career to go,” Ross said. “So now you want to do more to make sure this becomes more consistent. You know it is going to be harder, so you just work that much harder to stay ahead of the curve.”

It’s been a long time since anyone in a Raptors locker room talked about striving for 50 wins – can’t remember it ever happening – but after this season, it doesn’t sound all that farfetched. This team is young, willing to work hard and really does pull for one another.

“All it takes is the right chemistry and the right group of guys and you can do whatever it takes,” DeMar DeRozan said. “You don’t need big name players, you don’t need this or that what people say you need and we are proof of that. We will continue to keep growing and keep learning and keep building and on to the next step.”

It should be expected that these young Raptors will learn from their hard earned playoff experience this year and put in the necessary hard work this coming summer. Set the bar high Toronto. Expect more – a lot more. The Raptors expect it from themselves.
 

Game 1 of the first round of the NBA playoffs opens at the Air Canada Centre with the young up-and-coming Toronto Raptors hosting the very veteran Brooklyn Nets at 12:30pm Saturday.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

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Amir Johnson: Raptors Are Proud Of This Season
Especially for the guys that play and work all year, we get to sit back and say – okay – we actually did something this season,” Johnson said. “Starting from training camp, to everything happening, to trades, to now this, it is a great honor.”

TOR Ross and Patterson

Toronto Raptors: Patterson Set To Return, Ross On Defense

The Toronto Raptors are back in the NBA playoffs after a five year absence, clinching their spot in the postseason by defeating the Boston Celtics at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night. Lost in the jubilation was some pregame news about the injured Patrick Patterson from Head Coach Dwane Casey and a few in-game observations about the Raptors rapidly developing sophomore Terrence Ross.

“(Patterson will return) probably sometime this weekend,” Casey said. “(He is) still a little sore, but making huge progress with it, but probably sometime this weekend.

“It is difficult for him – more so than anything else – getting his timing, his rhythm, speed of the game, physicality because a lot of the stuff he is doing now is 3-on-3, 4-on-4 which is not the same as you are going to see in the game, so that is very difficult. He hasn’t missed a lot of stuff we are doing, he’s been paying attention, so he’s not missing anything as far as new sets, new schemes or anything like that which is a good thing.

“Expectations as far as conditioning are he will be a step behind a little bit. He is not going to be where he was before he stepped away. That’s why we got to get him back into rhythm and with a lack of practice time, it’s going to have to be in a game situation.”

The Raptors have essentially been a .500 team since Patterson had to rest his elbow. They miss his three-point shooting and his defense in the second unit and his play against opposition lineups that employ a stretch 4 or stretch 5. His return is greatly anticipated.

Ever since Casey inserted Ross into the starting lineup, the sophomore wing’s game has been growing by leaps and bounds, although not necessarily in a straight line. Casey has always talked about Ross’ natural shooting ability and Ross has made his own statements about playing above the rim, but it’s his defense that has been the biggest surprise.

Celtics Avery Bradley has developed a reputation as a very good defensive guard and this season, he is having a breakout year scoring the ball. No one would have put Ross ahead of Bradley in terms of ability at either end of the court in October. However, in the Raptors win over the Celtics on Friday, Ross looked like the veteran taking advantage of a rookie as Bradley’s passes were picked off twice by Ross and Ross caused deflections and other problems for his more experienced opponent.

In the fourth quarter, Ross saw a long rebound heading towards a Celtics player and quite literally judged the distance and flight of the ball to swoop in from about 4 steps behind Phil Pressey to snatch the ball out of the air mere inches from the guard’s fingers. There have been glimpses and moments where Ross has shown the ability to read what was about to happen and be in the right place at the right time, but not as consistently or as often as he did it on Friday night.

“You always have to have your head on a swivel and be conscious of everything going on around (you),” Ross said. “Just try to be as active as you can and come up with little things like that.

“I saw (the rebound) getting tipped out at the three-point line. Phil Pressey was still trying to run it down, but his arms were literally not long enough to get the ball, so I just ran out there and tried to tip it out and I just grabbed it and held on to it.

“You just have to go out there and try to make things happen.”

Ross has been making good things happen more and more often this season.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross Is Blossoming On Defense
“I try to play at both ends of the (court), offense and defense,” Ross said. “Once you get the opportunity, you have a chance to prove to people what you can do. I just needed the chance to play, that’s it.”

Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson Credits Kentucky Wildcats Coach John Calipari
“Being taller than everybody, I was forced to play the 5,” Patterson said. “In college my first 2 years, I was a center at 6’8, so to that I credit my post defense and (Coach) Calipari, he came in my junior year, he introduced me to the perimeter game. He allowed me to shoot the ball, put the ball on the floor and that allowed me to transition to the NBA.”

TOR_Ross_Terrence

Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross Is Blossoming On Defense

A lot is being made about the Toronto Raptors sophomore Terrence Ross and his contributions at the offensive end of the court.  A star performer in the NBA Slam Dunk contest for the second year in a row and a franchise high tying 51 point game against the Clippers is hard to overlook.  However, in the defense-first world of Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey, the way a young player earns and keeps his minutes is at the other end of the court.  Ross has gone from running into screens and getting lost on coverages in November to blossoming into one of his team’s better perimeter defenders.

Where Casey was praising Ross’ defensive effort earlier in the season when the team was losing, now Ross gets noticed for his effectiveness on defense against some of the league’s best offensive players in wins.

“(Ross’) experience has helped him (know) this is about to happen to me – this happened to me in the Clipper game – so they are doing the same (thing),” Casey explained.  “Now he has experience to draw from (when) reading situations and that has helped him.  Then his athletic instincts, his hands, his speed and quickness kicks in after that.  Game experience has helped (Ross) and Jonas (Valanciunas) both in a lot of situations especially Terrence guarding some of the top scorers in the league.”

While it is easy to see just how much more confident Ross has become on offense, nailing three-pointers, attempting athletic drives to the basket and an increasing number of impressive above the rim finishes, that confidence has flowed to the other end of the court as well.

“I have always been a defensive-minded player and I think the more I got to play the more it showed,” Ross said.  “Once you get confidence, you play at a different level, so I try to maintain my confidence, go out a play with the opportunity (Casey) is providing me.”

The best rational the Raptors had when drafting Ross ahead of other smooth shooting wing players like Jeremy Lamb was his potential on defense.  The quick hands and feet that made him an effective defender as a college sophomore should transfer to the NBA.  All Ross wanted was the chance to prove himself.

“I try to play at both ends of the (court), offense and defense,” Ross said.  “Once you get the opportunity, you have a chance to prove to people what you can do.  I just needed the chance to play, that’s it.”

Perhaps the most telling indication of Ross’ improvement this season is when Ross went down with a turned ankle early in the triple-overtime loss to Washington.  Casey made a point of mentioning that they missed his defense and they did.

“Losing Terrence, and you don’t miss something until you don’t have it,” said Casey after the loss to the Wizards.  “He gives us one more defender, shot maker, and that was a huge blow for us.  Especially defensively, he was doing a good job and also gave us another defender to switch on (John) Wall.”

Ross is just 135 games into his NBA career and its only been in the last 43 games since he’s been starting that there has been any reason to get excited about his play, but as can happen in the NBA, when the light comes on for a young player, sometimes it stays on and grows brighter.  Ross has been doing all the right things to make that happen so far.

There has been plenty to be excited about with Ross’ progress on offense, but blossoming on defense this early in his career is should be the bigger story.  It is certainly a lot less common and potentially a lot more valuable.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Ross & DeRozan
Can Ross and DeRozan Become The Raptors McGrady and Carter?
The Toronto Raptors had a dream in the early days of this franchise.  A dream that two young up and coming star wing players, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, would elevate this expansion franchise into relevance and dominance as a legitimate NBA contender for many years to come.  Then the dream became a myth that the team has been looking to recreate ever since and maybe, just maybe they have in DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross.

Ross & DeRozan

Can Ross and DeRozan Become The Raptors McGrady and Carter?

The Toronto Raptors had a dream in the early days of this franchise.  A dream that two young up and coming star wing players, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, would elevate this expansion franchise into relevance and dominance as a legitimate NBA contender for many years to come.  Then the dream became a myth that the team has been looking to recreate ever since and maybe, just maybe they have in DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross.

In 2009, the 19-year-old DeMar DeRozan was drafted by the Raptors and the young high flyer was immediately compared to Carter – even though Carter is and was a rare physical specimen with otherworldly physical gifts who didn’t enter the NBA until after 3 years of college.  Looking to replace the franchise player that got away had become an obsession in Toronto and the desire to find what was lost in 2000 when McGrady left meant every young wing player DeRozan was paired with reminded fans of what could have been – including Sonny Weems.  Remember him? – a nice young wing that outperformed the rookie DeRozan and is now a successful player in Europe.

DeRozan struggled as a 19-year-old and was often knocked to the canvas without a call in very non-Carter like drives to the basket and just as often, he looked lost at the defensive end of the court.  What DeRozan could do like Carter was show stopping slam dunks that he put on full display during the NBA Slam Dunk competition during All-Star Weekend in 2010 and 2011.  DeRozan didn’t have a Carter ‘It’s over’ moment, but he certainly wowed everyone watching.

What tends to be forgotten in the myth of Carter and McGrady is McGrady was drafted a year before Carter as an 18-year-old in 1997 and McGrady struggled at least as much as DeRozan early on and didn’t average double-digit scoring until his third NBA season.  Carter at 21-years old as a rookie was much better prepared for the NBA and probably should be the stay-in-school poster-boy for new Commissioner Adam Silver’s drive to raise the age limit for future NBA draft hopefuls.

Also forgotten in the Carter McGrady myth is the Raptors were bad, a 23-27 lottery team under then Head Coach Butch Carter in 1988-99.  It was in their second season together when McGrady was 20 and Carter was turning 23 that the Raptors won 45 games and looked like a team on the rise.

Now in his fifth NBA season, DeRozan is a first-time All-Star at 24 years old and his maturity and improved skills have become obvious on the court.  DeRozan is finally old enough to be a young leader and experienced enough to use his natural gifts.  Also, the young wing the Raptors unexpectedly drafted eighth in 2012 is starting to look like the future star who could actually fulfill the role envisioned by the myth created in 2000.

Ross was drafted as a 20-year-old and didn’t exactly blow anyone away as a rookie, but like DeRozan, he was a high-flyer and impressed everyone at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest – he even won it as a rookie.  Ross also went back and impressed everyone as a show-time dunker at All-Star Weekend this year, but he did in the context of his own breakout season as a player.

Head Coach Dwane Casey had a major influence in the selection of Ross over other draft prospects at the same position like Jeremy Lamb or Austin Rivers.  Casey believed Ross had an NBA ready skill – a silky smooth jump shot – and the potential to be a solid NBA defender, but neither of those skills were very evident as a rookie and seemed to disappear completely in NBA Summer League contests.  However, Casey believed in Ross and when the Raptors traded away Rudy Gay this past December, Ross was inserted into the starting lineup and blossomed.

There is no understating the impression Ross left on everyone when he tied Carter’s franchise scoring record of 51 points in a game on January 25, 2014 against the Clippers.  Ross has averaged double-digit scoring as a starter and the dunker has been hitting over 40 percent of his three-point attempts.  Calling this a breakout season for Ross isn’t overstating things.

The myth of Carter and McGrady was only strengthened when in 2000-2001, Carter averaged 27.6 points per game for the 47 win Raptors and McGrady averaged 26.8 points per game, an 11.4 point per game improvement, for the 43 win Orlando Magic.  It isn’t hard to imagine an NBA dynasty emerging north of the USA border if these two players had stayed together.

As Coach Casey is fond of saying, the Raptors haven’t done anything yet.  However, they have won 32 games with a game to go in February and this team has never won 33 games before March.  Matching the Carter McGrady win total of 45 in 1999-2000 seems perfectly attainable in DeRozan and Ross’ second season together.

The Raptors have one more factor that could help revive the past myth of two young wing players leading this franchise to relevance.  Ross will still be under his rookie contract next season and the Raptors have DeRozan locked up for 2 more years plus a player option after this one.  There will be no bolt to another team by Ross this summer as happened with McGrady in the summer of 2000.

While DeRozan is an All-Star, he hasn’t reached the status of Carter or McGrady and he doesn’t have to.  DeRozan has proven that he can be a player to build around this season.  Ross is only averaging 12.6 points per game in 38 starts, however, the upside has become obvious – at both ends of the court – and like the McGrady situation in 2000, Ross looks like he might eventually become the better overall player – or not, it shouldn’t really matter.

There is still a long ways to go for DeRozan and Ross to fulfill the myth that Carter and McGrady created by not playing together after 2000 and just like those old Raptors teams, there are other players on this current roster that are having a huge impact and have made this conversation possible.  Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson among others come to mind and some would argue Ross isn’t even the best sophomore on this team with Jonas Valanciunas developing into a genuine NBA starting center.  However, this is a team sport and the positive myths created about star players almost never happen without a strong supporting cast around them.

There is a new myth in the making north of the border and while both DeRozan and especially Ross will need to take additional steps to make it happen, the signs are there that it is underdevelopment.  The Raptors may finally be starting to become relevant again.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Toronto Raptors Flirting With Franchise History
As the Toronto Raptors head into Cleveland on Tuesday night, the focus remains one game at a time, but in reality, the team is flirting with the best record in franchise history at the end of February.  Toronto has never won 33 games before March and with 31 wins and games against the Cavaliers and Wizards remaining before the end of the month, there is a real possibility they could get there.

Terrence Ross 1

Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross Explains His Break Out

The Raptors Terrence Ross knows why he has been playing better lately and the formula is simple.  A little experience plus a lot of opportunity has meant big things for the sophomore this season.

“Just the opportunity, getting more time to play and understanding what I can do,” Ross said.  “It is hard to be consistent coming off the bench.  Some guys like it and some guys don’t.  It is something you have to learn.  You are always going to get your opportunity and when you get it, you have to make the most of it.”

The opportunity was magnified on Saturday playing against the Clippers when DeMar DeRozan turned an ankle.  Ross started the game out shooting hot – which really isn’t all that unusual – and the Raptors had nowhere else to turn for points in a shootout.  By the time it ended, Ross had tied the franchise high for points with 51 and set personal bests in every shooting category on the stats sheet.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau special to ESPN, Ross is the fourth player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in a game despite entering the contest with a career scoring average of less than 10 points per game.  Ross is the youngest player to score 50 or more points in an NBA game since Brandon Jennings on November 14, 2009.

Ross credits much of his success to having gone through the league once already and learning the tendencies of the players he has been going up against.

“I have played enough that I understand what certain guys will let you get away with, what you can do and what you can’t do,” Ross said.  “Once you play (them) a few times, you understand what they do and you don’t fall for some of the things (veterans) do now.  I have played enough against these guys now to understand what they do and what I can get away with and what they try to get away with.”

It has been easier for Ross in a starting role.  He feels less stress and has been showing an unusual amount of patience with game lately.  Ross knows he isn’t going to be pulled for making a mistake, so he doesn’t rush as much and makes fewer mistakes as a result.

“It is a lot less stressful,” Ross said.  “It is harder, but in some ways you can play a little more freely.  Just knowing that I am going to get the chance to keep playing, I am always going to get the opportunity, you don’t have to rush it and try to prove yourself as much, so now you just play your game and they keep me on the court.  Now I just have to sharpen it up and make sure I don’t make many mistakes.”

The 51 point game is an outlier, Ross’ previous high this season was 24 points and he only had three 20+ point games this season prior to Saturday.  However, Ross’ ability to shoot the ball has never been questioned by Head Coach Dwane Casey and after winning the NBA Slam Dunk contest last year, his athletic ability around the rim was a known quantity as well.

“[Ross] is not that far behind because the one thing he can do that makes up for a multitude of sins is he can shoot the ball,” Casey said in November last season.

Since Ross has been starting, he has proven Casey right.  As a starter, Ross is averaging 6.2 three-point attempts per game and hitting on 43 percent of them.  The floor spreading wing player the Raptors have needed was sitting on their own bench this whole time – he just needed a little seasoning.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out the Game Story from Ross’ 51 point break out:

TOR_Ross_Terrence
Raptors Terrence Ross Breaks Out To Score 51 In Loss
Toronto Raptors sophomore wing Terrence Ross broke out the NBA ready skill that Head Coach Dwane Casey has said was there since the team drafted him and exploded for a franchise tying 51 points in a shootout loss to the Clippers 126-118 at the Air Canada Centre.