The Toronto Raptors have been dealt a serious blow with the loss of both Landry Fields and Alan Anderson to injuries. Despite the challenges these injuries will present for the team, they also open up some minutes for rookie Terrence Ross which could be crucial for his development.
Yesterday was not a great day to be a member of the Toronto Raptors.
This obviously isn't good news for a team that is already facing a gruelling stretch of games --11 of the next 14 are on the road -- and feeling the weight of expectations to compete in the Eastern Conference.
The odds of remaining competitive during that stretch now, without those three players, have decreased significantly as Dwane Casey will have to find a workable rotation that includes feasible replacements for the absent players.
The point guard position isn't as big of a concern given how well Calderon has been playing without Lowry in the lineup, as well as the fact that Lowry should be back much sooner than both Fields and Anderson.
At the small forward spot though, the top two options for the Raptors are both out of the lineup for the foreseeable future.
In the two games that Anderson has missed since injuring his left foot, Casey has relied heavily on both Dominic McGuire and Linas Keiza, which hasn't exactly worked out.
Granted, Kleiza and McGuire are both veterans that know how to play the game, but the Raptors have much more to gain from playing rookie Terrence Ross more minutes going forward.
So far this season, Ross' minutes have been sporadic. Ross saw a season-high 14 minutes in a blowout against the Thunder on November 6th and a season-low three minutes against the Jazz on Monday -- the latter coming in a game where DeMar DeRozan played 60 minutes after the contest went into three overtimes.
Clearly, Casey hasn't had much confidence in the youngster, yet. But, with the challenging stretch the team has coming up, now is the perfect time to throw Ross out onto the floor and get him some experience running their offensive and defensive sets against NBA level talent.
The 6'7 Ross has had a tough time getting comfortable this season, but he sees his first few games in the NBA as a positive experience.
"It's been fun. I'm learning a lot," Ross told RaptorsHQ. "You get used to the pace, its a lot different than preseason and its been a different game style from the preseason."
For Ross, the preparation for the NBA game has been a bit different than he had grown accustomed to in college, but will be a hug part of his development at the NBA level.
"I think the pace and the physicality are the biggest difference," Ross said. "You gotta do the same drills knowing that they are going to react a little bit different than what you are normally used to."
With more experience, Ross will get more comfortable with the NBA game. Without that extra playing time, it is only going to take Ross longer to develop into the player the team hoped he would be when they selected him with the 8th overall pick in June.
For a young rookie like Ross, getting into the game for an extended period of time and getting an opportunity to see the ball go through the basket can do wonders for his confidence. And a confident Ross means an extra three-point threat on the floor for Raptors, which is an aspect of the game the team desperately needs.
When Ross scored 10 points in 14 minutes against the Thunder earlier this season, it gave him a boost of confidence that has helped drive his work on the practice court.
"It makes you feel like you are doing something right and that all the work you are putting in is paying off. So, it helps a lot," Ross said of his outing in Oklahoma City.
Getting an opportunity to play in the absence of Anderson and Fields will be crucial for Ross to establish himself here in his rookie season. Yes, mistakes will be made, but having the ability to work through those mistakes will not only benefit Ross down the road, but the Raptors as well.
If Ross and the Raptors can take the current injury situation and use it to their advantage, then maybe this recent slew of injuries the team has suffered on the wing may not be such a bad set of circumstances.