Raptors’ Injuries Give Terrence Ross a Shot
Despite the odds, Toronto Raptors rookie Terrence Ross has begun to carve out a role for himself on the team. Depth on the wing and a stated reluctance to risk losing games by developing rookies had suggested Ross would be spending at lot of time watching from the bench this season.
During training camp, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said that his rotation would feature “probably eight to nine” players and made it clear that young, inexperienced players such as Ross wouldn’t play unless they helped the team win.
“We are not going to use games to develop guys like we did last year,” Casey said.
However, Casey did acknowledge Ross’ shooting ability and admitted that it could help him get on the court.
“[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.
Penciled in as a shooting guard, Ross had a decent, if unspectacular, preseason, hitting 37.5 percent of his three-point attempts and playing active defense. However, he did nothing to suggest that he would be able to take minutes away from any of the veterans during the regular season. DeMar DeRozan would get the bulk of the minutes at the two spot, Jose Calderon was going to be paired with Kyle Lowry in frequent two point guard lineups and Alan Anderson had become the obvious Casey favorite to soak up anything remaining.
Fortunately for Ross, things do not always turn out as planned. After a 6-1 preseason, the Raptors ran into some unexpected chemistry issues on the court and then into a string of injuries to Lowry, Anderson and Landry Fields. As a result, Ross has seen time in 13 of the Raptors’ first 15 games and played over 12 minutes in eight of them. In those eight games, Ross is 10-25 from three-point range and has been an active defender with six steals.
“[Ross is] still making mistakes, but he is figuring it out on the defensive end much better,” Casey said. “Where he should be, how he should get there, the different defensive coverages that we are in, who is the tag guy and all that, he is figuring it out. He is going to be able to score. He missed some shots the other night, but he still has to take those same shots as he is going to make those.”
While he is starting to figure things out, Ross is still obviously adjusting to the faster NBA pace. With that said, he is confident it will not be long before he will be able to take advantage of more opportunities.
“It’s a lot faster,” Ross said. “Guys make quicker decisions in a lot less time so people have to move at a faster pace. It moves pretty fast. It’s a lot tougher, but it’s not like a different type of game where I can’t get my shot off. It’s just a little bit different, got to do a couple things a little faster. It’s something that you have to get used to, something that you have to adjust to.
“It’s not going to take too much longer. I work on it every day. It’s just something that is going to start becoming a second nature to me.”
Fortunately for Ross, Fields and Anderson will be out for awhile and he will continue to get his chance to learn on the job, an ongoing opportunity to adjust to the NBA game and live up to the high expectations of his coaches and teammates.
“He can do a lot of great things, but at the same time he’s still learning,” DeRozan said. “Anytime he gets a chance to play in a game or in practice, he has to use it as a chance to get better. I try to stress that on him every time, try to talk to him that we’re going to need him, that he can do a lot of great things for us.”
“I have told him to be aggressive,” Casey said. “His role on our team is a shooter, a scorer. We are running plays for him now. He has to learn how to execute those plays, how to get open, how to use his leverage, speed and quickness to change speeds to get open. All those things for him are going to be important.”
In the NBA, one player’s misfortune is another’s opportunity and Ross is taking advantage of a couple early-season injuries to get some unexpected minutes. He is still figuring things out and the game hasn’t slowed down for him yet, but Casey was right about his NBA-ready shooting skills and Ross has been opportunistic at the defensive end.
If Ross puts it all together before Fields and Anderson return, he has a chance to hold onto his spot in the rotation and, more importantly, the Raptors will have at least obtained some benefit from the rash of injuries that have put a big damper on the start of their season.