Terrence Ross struggled last season as a rookie adjusting to the pace of the NBA and being consistent. Because of that, he was limited to 17.0 minutes per game and had stretches where he was a fringe rotation player for the Toronto Raptors.
However, over the past week, Ross has shown signs of grasping what it takes to be a successful pro. Over his past five games, Ross is shooting 50% from the field while scoring 7.6 points per game.
While those numbers are solid, it has been his ability to play with a steady focus on both ends of the court that has gotten him his bump in minutes.
“He’s playing with a more consistent focus that in his first year he didn’t have,” Casey told me. “Even in the first few games of this year he didn’t have the focus we need from him. For the last two weeks he has played with that focus and that’s what it’s about. He’s being where he needs to be defensively. Offensively, he’s kind of playing in a rhythm and taking a shot when he has it and not forcing it. He’s growing. He’s not there, but he’s coming along.”
For Casey, it’s a case of a young player needing a year to figure out the NBA and now that he knows how to guard opposing players, Ross is on the verge of flourishing.
“I think, I hope, that he’s figuring out the way he stays out there is not because of his offense, but mostly because he can guard and get into some of those two’s and three’s that we are going to go against,” Casey explained to me. “He’s probably one of our best guys at chasing guys off of screens. A lot of the NBA now is you’ve got great shooters coming off of staggered screens and you’ve got to get through there. He’s probably one of our better guys at doing that.”
Coming into the NBA, Ross felt he was prepared to guard players because he grew up watching most of them. However, after a bit of a trial by fire, Ross learned quickly that watching a player on TV is vastly different than being on a court and having to fight through screens.
“When you watch ‘em on TV it’s kind of different,” Ross admitted to the media this morning. “When you aren’t there playing them you get a better feel for their tendencies and what every player is capable of and what they like to do. It helps make you ready for it the next time you see them.”
It’s not like Ross was dogging it last season, it’s just that there’s a huge learning curve for any player coming out of college to adapt to the next level of competition. Small things like going from the first option on offense to being a role player is a tough thing for any player to adjust to mentally.
Heck, chasing around Kobe Bryant, James Harden or Kevin Durant is no easy task for a veteran. For a young player facing those players for the first time it’s a downright daunting task.
But after getting a year of experience and getting a little older, this becomes slightly easier.
“I watch film with him religiously, but the key is Father Time,” Casey admitted to me. “He just needs to continue to grow and mature as a young man and as a player. Again, it’s his second year in the league, so that is going to help him see, ‘hey, this is what coach is talking about.’ Or, ‘this is what they are talking about being off of the ball or being alert on the weakside because something bad is going to happen to me if I’m guarding Kyle Korver over on the weakside.’ It just takes time to figure that out. You can talk, talk, talk and preach, preach, preach, until all of a sudden, snap, the light just keeps coming on and through repetition it just happens.”
While Ross is far from a finished product, it’s been encouraging to see him take big steps forward this month and continue to show flashes of his potential. By being more attentive on the court and combining that with more knowledge of players through game experience and watching video fans are starting to see the results from all of Ross’ hard work.
It will be interesting to see what other steps forward he can take this season and if he can continue to be consistent on both ends of the court. If so, he looks poised to flourish in his role as sixth man for the Raptors this season.