Very recently Paul Pierce spouted off saying that the Toronto Raptors are a playoff team he is not concerned with. In his words, “they don’t have that ‘it’ factor” that intimidates other opponents. Many Raptor faithful know Pierce as the man who dashed last year’s playoff hopes with a controversial game ending block on Kyle Lowry. What many might not remember from that series is how Terrence Ross made a fool of “The Truth” by deflecting an errant inbound pass off Pierce’s legs out-of-bounds to giving the Raps an extra possession.
At 23 years old in his second year as an NBA swingman (his first as a starter) Terrence Ross was thrust into the unforgiving limelight. He was seen as the anchor for an untested Toronto Raptors defense in their first playoff series since the Chris Bosh era. As the series went on it was clear T-Ross was overwhelmed by the spotlight and couldn’t perform up to his capabilities. His regular season stats (42% FG, 39% 3Pt, and 84% FT) plummeted to a measly 30%, 17%, and 60% respectively.
Earlier in the season there were whispers of trading Ross for pennies on the dollar after his play regressed drastically. However, after taking a closer look it’s appears that Ross has all the tools to become the “it” factor the Raps are lacking.
First, the Raps are in a very strange place. They are a very young, developing team that unexpectedly started to succeed. When you win the expectation to win more is a natural consequence. Unfortunately success on the court does not always go hand in hand with player development. The Raptors have tied the franchise record for wins and in the process limited the playing time of T-Ross and their other young prospects.
The Raps have beaten some tough opponents but the ease of their 2014-2015 schedule cannot be overstated. Twenty-eight of the Raptors 48 wins were against opponents who will not be in the post season.
Nineteen of those came against teams with less than 30 wins.
Also, the Raptors rank in the top 5 in offensive efficiency this season but, don’t let that fool you. It was their astounding early season play that has balanced their poor efficiency in 2015. Since January the Raptors have been in the bottom 10 offensively.
It is up to Casey to get Ross involved. Right now I see T-Ross missing defensive assignments, running to the nearest corner to wait for his next chance to shoot the 3 ball and shrugging his shoulders. By giving him more touches and more responsibility Casey will either build Ross’ confidence with success, or force him to toughen up mentally through failure. Either way this results in a better and hopefully more assertive Terrence Ross taking pressure off the other playmakers for Toronto.
Lastly, and most importantly, Ross has to develop mental toughness. The mindset it takes to succeed in the NBA is not acquired easily, if ever. Most 24 year olds are learning to handle relationships, finances and life in general. Ross clearly has the physical attributes of an NBA star, however he needs to develop emotional stability. It’s the playoffs and Ross is about to enter the spotlight once again. In a few days he will face a tough Wizards team lead by John Wall and ‘The Truth’. Pierce has already dismissed the Raptors, he is not worried about them.
Bottom line it comes down to Ross. He has to grow-up, show increased mental toughness and be the disruptive defensive force he was in those final seconds of last year’s game seven. Terrence Ross needs to show everyone he can be the ‘it’ factor the Raptors need to make it to the next round.