There’s no rattling Raptors’ Ross | Toronto Sun
Casey told Ross sometime Monday morning that he was moving back to the bench. The reaction from the third-year swingman? “Cool.” It was no big deal for Ross, even though he had started 102 straight games. He didn’t take it as an attack, just something that had to be done and something he would roll with. Does it change anything, how he prepares for games, his mentality heading in? “No, it’s how I started off in the league. I’m used to it,” Ross said after he made two key baskets to seal a win over the Bucks. The redemption tale meant a horde of media was camped out by his locker. To say Ross does not enjoy the attention is an understatement. This is a guy who looked genuinely stunned last season when the media swarmed him after his surprising 51-point game against the Clippers and he looked like he would rather have been doing pretty much anything else instead of talking to us after the Bucks game.
A video posted by Terrence Ross (@3tross1) on
“He wants to prove to the world that he is an NBA player and a starter in this league,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told Bob McCown and Arash Madani on Prime Time Sports Tuesday. “I’m not saying him coming off the bench is a permanent move but it’s something I think is good for him right now.” As a result of the decision to have Ross come off the bench and Greivis Vasquez start, Casey’s rotation must be re-arranged and on Monday the odd-man out appeared to be James Johnson. Casey says that while the team does want to focus more on Ross, there will be games when Johnson will return to his usual rotational minutes.
While it’s only one game, Ross’ first outing in his new role gave hope that Casey’s experiment with his rotation will bring positive results. He scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds in 22 minutes as the Raptors escaped the BMO Harris Bradley Center with a 92-89 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 19. His final two baskets late in the fourth quarter, including a breakaway jam with 15.9 seconds left, helped seal the victory.
Approaching the Feb. 19 trade deadline, Ujiri does have options. He has expiring contracts worth about $27 million he could deal and an extra future draft pick obtained from the New York Knicks in the Andrea Bargnani trade. The question is does he want to spend his 2015 summer free agent money in February in a trade or wait until a larger group of players is available in the summer? Ujiri is loathe to take on long-term contracts, though, so it’s unlikely he’d add significant salary past the 2015-16 season for a couple of reasons. He has to figure out what, or if, to do with some current players, Amir Johnson will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross are up for contract extensions. Locking into a player now who would limit what he can do this summer or when a great class of free agents is available in 2016 is not something he’s interested in.
The Raptors reach the official mid-season in some turmoil, although the win over Milwaukee helped soothe the sting. Internally, they have talked about overconfidence creeping in, only to turn around and come out on Sunday as flat as flat can be against a New Orleans Pelicans team that was missing its two most effective starters. They are turning the basketball over at a rate that wasn’t even remotely close to how protective of the basketball they had been earlier in the season when the wins were coming. All that being said, we go back to the opening of this article: They are the same group that has made this best-ever first half in team history possible. This season marks just the sixth time in their 20-year history that the Raptors complete the first half with a winning record.
The Raptors are 16-1 when holding teams to under 100 points and 14-2 when holding opponents to below 45 percent shooting from the field. When they fail to achieve these defensive targets, the Raptors are effectively a .500 club.
The Raptors go 23-18 the rest of the way, finish with 50 wins, the Atlantic Division title and a top-four seed. After that, who knows? A lot of it will depend on the playoff matchup, and the health of the team. This team has been frustrating to watch lately, but they’re on pace to finish where we expected them to be at the start of the year. They need to play better, there are lots of areas that need fixing, but perhaps the panic comes from elevated expectations based on the team’s fast start. It was nice when we were first place in the East, and everyone wondered about us. Now, no one’s really talking about us again, which is fair. But this current roster was never constructed to win a championship this year. We’ll get some more definitive answers on the progress of Ross and Valanciunas as key contributors to this team in the long run over the course of the next 41 games, and surely, we’ll be able to better evaluate Dwane Casey as a coach and what this roster needs to move ahead and become a legitimate contender for the title. So, still on course. Even with the struggles of late, I’m still pretty excited to see where this all ends up.
In the near dystopian Eastern Conference, the Raptors are a beacon of light. Sure, they badly need to improve on their defence, which is ranked 21st in the league. They are often out rebounded, sometimes looking painfully passive anywhere near the hoop on defence. Some players who were supposed to be defensive strengths have been weaknesses this season, like third-year Terrence Ross. And, most frustratingly, the team often relies on the crutch that is small-ball in the fourth quarter. But, just the thought of their offence is enough to remind me that there is hope in Toronto.
First of all, if you’re a team that only plays the Toronto Raptors a couple of times per year, you need to realize that this isn’t the same team from last year. That crisp ball-movement that led to so many uncontested shots last year? Gone. If you don’t want to trust my perception from watching the games, then let’s look at the percentage of baskets that were credited with an assist this year compared to last. (# of Assists/# of FGs) Last year, 58% of the Raptors’ baskets came off of an assist. This year, that number is down to 54%. The league average is over 58%. This is just one of their weaknesses that was overlooked early on this season while the team was winning.
On top of what’s been a very rough few weeks for the Raps, that dagger from Tyreke last night still has me feeling extra salty today. But let’s not get too down on our boys just yet. There is a big part of me that believes this past stretch of games is no reason to panic. First of all it’s better to struggle now as oppose to later in the season/ heading into the playoff. Second, adversity builds character in the long run, and humbles a team like the Raps who were sitting in 1st for so long that we may have gotten big heads. Finally, it’s still gonna take another 2 or 3 games for everybody to re-adjust to Demar being back in the lineup. If we are still playing like this over the next 6-8 games than maybe it’s time to shake things up. Anyways, I just wanted to try and cheer up some of you guys who have been feeling a bit down about our team and tell you all to be patient. Tell all your friends who joined the bandwagon last year not to jump off just yet. Let them know it’s only a matter of time before this team reminds us of the heart they have, and why T.O (and Canada) isn’t the Leafs city anymore, we The North.
Antetokounmpo needed minutes in Milwaukee; he needed a lot of them. He averaged nearly 25MPG in his first season with the Bucks and he benefited from the experience greatly. This year he is averaging close to 30MPG and is arguably the Bucks best player many nights. There is no way Caboclo will get near that kind of playing time in Toronto, but he could in a different situation. The Bucks are reaping the rewards of Antetokounmpo’s time learning on the job, so could Caboclo not benefit from time in Europe? It worked out for Jonas Valanciunas when he played in Lithuania before arriving in Toronto. It wasn’t the Raptors ideal plan, but it certainly worked out and it worked out because Jonas was able to get more experience on the court and become a more confident player.
(shows stat for 4th Q minutes when he’s actually played in the 4th quarter). This includes an astounding 13 games where’s he played ZERO 4th quarter minutes. At this point, this is becoming a running joke. To put it in perspective, that’s just 10 more total 4th Q minutes than Tyler freaking Handsbro.
The most important trade in Raptors’ history was merely a formality. Yes, Toronto selected Jamison, who would switch hats with his college teammate on draft night, but it was Carter the Raptors had targeted all along. Of the two, Jamison actually had the better body of work at UNC and was known to be the Warriors’ preference, selecting fifth overall. So Grunwald, drafting for the first time as general manager, nabbed the forward with the fourth pick, immediately swapping him for some cash. Sold after watching his pre-draft workouts, Grunwald saw something in Carter and his instincts didn’t deceive him. While Jamison would go on to have a very good 16-year career, Carter was the franchise-altering star the Raptors desperately needed coming off a horrendous season.
“We need television that’s in high definition and low on the dial,” says Carter, who coached the Raptors from 1997 through 2000 and now lives in Toronto. “We’re not selling (investors) the concept of a league. We’re selling the concept of a profit/loss statement.” The past two decades have seen several minor pro basketball leagues appear and then vanish in Canada. The seven-team National Basketball League lasted less than two seasons before folding in 1994, and a decade ago the Ontario Professional Basketball Association didn’t even survive its first campaign. And if you weren’t aware they’d ever existed, well, that’s the point. Starting a pro sports league requires deep-pocketed owners who are patient enough to lose money for a few seasons, as well as a long list of eager sponsors. Pro basketball start-ups in Canada often fail on both fronts. “What every one of these things come up against is that they’re completely underfinanced,” says sports sponsorship consultant Brian Cooper, CEO of the S&E Sponsorship Group. “They’re reliant on ticket sales. They’re selling not the top level of basketball but the second level in markets outside of the core, avid fan base of basketball in this country.”
Demar Derozan’s return to the lineup from an extended stay on the bench, because of injury, is a welcome addition for the Raptors at a crucial time in the season. The Atlanta Hawks seem to be slowly starting to pull away from the pack in the Eastern Conference, and there is a need for other top teams to stay close as we head into the All-Star break fairly soon. The second half of the season will seem a lot more promising with some moment heading into the break and perhaps a 2nd or 3rd ranking in the east.
A different Memphis team awaits the Raptors than showed in Toronto in November when Courtney Lee, Tony Allen and Beno Udrih sat out with a flu bug; two other backups also sat out the 92-92 Raptors win . . . Vince Carter is shooting 33.7 per cent from the field for Memphis, averaging 6.1 points and 16.7 minutes per game . . . Both Lowry and Vasquez were originally drafted by the Grizzlies before wending their way to Toronto .
t doesn’t get any easier either. Toronto brings in nimble and active big men like Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson and Tyler Hansbrough. They aren’t that skilled but they are deep which gives everyone time to rest. That allows them to run with abandon knowing someone has their back.
The Grizzlies were missing a bevy of players in the first meeting, and the Raptors were performing at a much higher level at that time compared to how they enter the rematch Wednesday night in Memphis.
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