Putting Ross’ struggles into context.

Growing pains are called pains for a reason. It’s almost never smooth and easy. It’s awkward boners and unsightly acne invading your face, wherein every pore marks ground seceded by your zit-cream to the unsightly form of adolescence. It’s never pretty.

We are witnessing Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross’ struggles with basketball adolescence.

True to form, it’s been an awkward experience, and like zits on a face, Ross’ failures thus far have been equal parts visible and unsightly. Through the first six games of the Raptors’ round one playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, Ross is averaging 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds per game on 27% shooting from the field, a far cry from his regular season averages. It’s hard to believe that this is the same player who exploded for 51 points in a game earlier this season. Somewhere in his basketball grave, Tony Delk is rolling onto his side in order to make room.

What’s worse for Ross, is that his problems are not merely skin-deep. This isn’t a case of shots not falling, or better offense overwhelming his abhorrent defense. If anything, the numbers portray Ross in a fairer light than his performance merits – Ross has been terrible on both ends of the floor. He’s not finding ways to get himself open for threes, he’s not leaking in transition, and his defensive positioning is random, at best. The most obvious sign? His smooth butterfly shooting stroke, the one that launched his career in pro basketball, looks warped and altered, as if it were designed to thread a basketball through the eye of a needle. His shot looks as ugly as that last analogy.

Ross is popping random boners – figuratively speaking – on national television.

Unfortunately, it’s a process that can’t be helped. Like the attentive and caring parents that they are, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the de facto leaders on this team, have tried their best to coax better performances out of Ross, but to no avail. They’ve tried giving him the ball, they’ve tried sparing him of offensive responsibilities, they’ve tried comforting him – nothing has worked. Ross looks frightened and miserable when he’s on the court. He’s alone in this fight, and he’s getting his head handed to him.

The spectra of emotions clashing in Ross’ mind must be sickening. Anger, depression, frustration, embarrassment and helplessness are showing on an endless loop like Rambo movies on Spike. It’s a nauseating cycle that only ends when you shut off the television – sleep is probably Ross’ favorite pastime right now.

My hope as a Raptors fan is that Ross manages to snap out of his funk in time for Sunday, but I’m not holding my breath. There were brief flashes in Game 6, when Ross successfully drove into the heart of the Nets’ defense, and used his athleticism to get open looks. I would like to focus on those, rather than the defensive missteps and shanked jumpshots. I would like less John Salmons in my life.

However, my fear is that our current frustrations as a fanbase will ultimately result in a permanent black mark against Ross. The stakes are higher in the playoffs not only because elimination looms, but more eyeballs are glued to television sets. With every game, we’re bombarded with panoramic crowd shots of the Raptors’ faithful, at least 1,000 strong gathering in Jurassic Park, but what about “Bob the Leafs fan”, who is only watching basketball because his TV is permanently set to TSN? When he sees Ross brick open threes, what impressions are formed in his mind?

And although the Raptors’ accomplishments thus far this season have earned each and every player (save for Salmons) plenty of deserved leeway, the backlash will always be around the corner, sharking for sought-after page-views. If a respectable news publication like The Oklahoman is willing to slander the good name of likely MVP Kevin Durant, what can we expect from The Toronto Sun? Someone will pick on Ross because he’s low-hanging fruit. For once, I’m thankful that Toronto is a hockey-town.

But remember, what we are witnessing isn’t Terrence Ross, the final cylon. Rather, we’re seeing him struggle with growing pains, and with basketball adolescence. This is as awkward as it’s going to get.

Regardless of the outcome of Game 7, this haunting playoff series will likely fester in Ross’ mind for a very long time. He knows he has let down DeRozan and Lowry, and squandered one of their few forays into the post-season. He has disappointed his teammates, which is something that hurts more than just self-flagellation.

He will be seeking redemption, but his chance won’t come until next season, at the earliest. In the meantime, we’ll debate Ross’ potential in forums and comment sections, bearing his playoff failures in mind. Some of us will take his failures as a slight against him. Others will see his performance in the proper context — Ross won’t be pimply forever.

  • Ds

    Well said. Here’s to a 50-point game out of the blue!

  • Icarus Descending

    Good read. I’ve really enjoyed Ross improvement during the season and he’s been pretty efficient. Unfortunately it’s obvious the pressure is getting to him big time. Just hope this experience helps him improve rather than damage his confidence or a sign of future playoff performance. Really hoping he can find his rhythm in game 7 but I’m doubtful. Our ball movement has generally been terrible and he’s just not at the point where he can consistently create his own shot with any efficiency. I just hope his playoff performance doesn’t result in him being traded, I’m really looking forward to seeing where he can get to next season.

  • Andrew

    They shouldn’t start him in Game 7. They’re afraid to do it, but they should. Nobody is asking him to put up 40 or hold Joe Johnson scoreless, but the lack of aggression on either end has made this series a lot closer than it ever needed to be. There’s a difference between growing pains and having 6 straight atrocious games. He’s stopped making hard cuts and doesn’t communicate on defense. I don’t think Masai flips him or drafts a replacement, but Ross isn’t helping his case by making the same mistakes every game thus far.

    • Andrew

      That being said, I hope he proves me wrong and comes out blazing tomorrow. As for the papers not shredding him if they lose, he’ll have thoroughly earned it. Bear in mind what coddling a young player with kid gloves yields later down the road.

    • Josh Johnson

      They aren’t really shooting for a title this year. as the gm said, its more for player development, so they should start him to give him more experience

  • Andrey

    I was thinking about this as well. This off-season will either make or break Terrence Ross. I’m hoping he’ll become Mike Miller type guy.

    • plaid coast

      i think terrence has his sights higher than mike miller. not that mike is a bad player or something. but terrance has more athletic ability than most of the people in the league. he’s a high flyer, and has a lot of defensive potential, while MM is a fairly one-dimensional catch and shoot type of guy who can’t even really create his own shot.

      • DDayLewis

        Mike Miller in his prime was a baller.

      • Daniel Grouzman

        You clearly haven’t seen Mike Miller play when he was younger.

  • Guest

    Just wanted to add, can you imagine DD in the playoffs in year 2? Yikes…..

  • Roarque

    I think the vast majority of correspondents here would agree that 2014 is a learning point in the life of the Raptors’ legacy. Because of today, the NBA Championship in 2017 will be more sweet. Honestly now, if the team won this year or next wouldn’t the accomplishment be cheapened? Enjoy this series and enjoy the next – even if the Heat beat us in six, we’ll know that the lessons learned will be learning points for the inevitable victory. I for one hope that the majority of today’s Raptors will be around to celebrate.

  • Feather Ruffler

    Nice Battlestar Gallactica reference! Frack yeah!

  • DC

    This adolescent is being paid $2.7 million this year to grow up! Just saying.

  • Truth Teller

    I don’t care if he can’t score, but you have to step up on defense. Also if the jumper isn’t falling, then attack the basket. The guy probably jumps the highest on the team. Use some of that athleticism.

  • mountio

    First, Im a little biased. Ross is my favourite player on the team and I have been touting his praises from day one … so I perhaps cant see this fully objectively. BUT – I (still) think he has the highest ceiling on the team. Yes, he has stunk to holy hell in this series .. I fully admit that.

    But, its a confidence thing, not a skillset thing. Not that Casey takes the blame for this (it has to land on TR himself), but I cant help but wonder if he would be in a better spot if Casey hadnt been so quick to hook him and so hesitant to let him finish games (implicitly having Ross question his own abilities).

    Now – some guys have lost their confidence and never got it back (N Anderson) – but more often than not, confidence will come back if a player has the right skillset – and Ross certainly does. He has clearly shown he can be a 3 and D guy ..and has shown glimpses of the ability to bring more to the table in terms of getting into the lane and slashing.

    I hope he have something like a 13 point first quarter for TR in game 7 – there were many of those types of games this year and it would be o so sweet to see one again.

    As for next year, I think he shrugs all of this off and comes back better than ever… but I guess only time will tell.

  • asifyouknow

    I think we got a surprise in the starting lineup……Vaz for Ross the only problem is who maintains in the second quarter…..DeColo?

    • RPT23

      I was thinking the same thing too. I begrudgingly suspect that Casey is going to go with a REALLY short line up. One that will may see one starter playing all 48min (Lowry or DeRozan). If not, then the other end of the spectrum would be a slew of awkward line ups, maybe to confuse Jason Kidd? *sigh*

      If the starting line up stays the same (if Casey’s true to his words) then expect a very, very short leash for Ross. If you thought his minutes were cut short during the series, you may not see him at all after the first 5min of Game 7.

      F#ck Brooklyn and F#ck Bl@nche-b!tch-@$$-gun-toting-self-annointed-captain-of-the-wizards-and-his-guaranteed-win-over-the-raptors-in-game-7!

    • noname

      start fields.

  • unknown

    “His shot looks as ugly as that last analogy.”

    • DDayLewis

      Breaking the fourth wall seems like a popular gimmick

      • noname

        somewhere, in an abandoned apartment, Deadpool is pissed off saying “Hey! That’s my schtick!”

  • TheSpiceTyrant

    All that crap about rookies learning… well boys, the regular season isn’t that time. Right now, guys like Patterson/Vasquez/Ross/BigVal SHOULD get minutes, especially game 7. This team is NOT going past the 2nd round and, as i’ve said before, it is better for them to loose in a tough game 7 than get blown away in 4-5 games in the 2nd round.

    I have a lot of confidence that this coaching staff have figured this out. Sure, we want to win, but building a winning culture is a process. And I’m sure playing Hayes (i love the guy) for 20 minutes in game 7 isn’t going to help that process.

  • Nah

    If Ross dunks tomorrow Raps win.

    • disqus_BQ0sNHFl47

      Looks like they’re losing. Ross ain’t do shit the whole series.

  • Ednan Ahmed

    HE won’t be black marked regardless we love TRoss

  • Josh Johnson

    First off, I may be wrong because I haven’t seen much of this series, but from what I’ve seen Terrence Ross has looked good shutting down Deron Williams

  • jeff

    terrence ross needs to develop a mid range game, he’s got great form on his shot, and should be a helluva better shooter

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