TORONTO â€” Terrence Ross’s first night back in Toronto was mundane. He returned to his old house and packed up the few remaining possessions he had left behind after the Raptors traded him to Orlando, mainly things he didn’t need in the Florida heat like winter coats and boots.
He did the chore with a heavy heart as he continues to adjust to life away from the city he had grown to love.
“Everything,” Ross said when asked at Monday’s morning shootaround what he misses most about the city.
“It’s Toronto,” he added. “Toronto is so much more than just one spot.”
Ross spent the first four and a half seasons of his NBA career in Toronto after the Raptors drafted him eighth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. He had many memorable moments in a Toronto uniform, including winning the 2013 slam dunk contest and scoring 51 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 25, 2014, tying Vince Carter’s franchise record.
After he was traded along with a 2017 first-round draft pick to the Magic on Feb. 14 for forward Serge Ibaka, Ross wrote a heartfelt thank-you note to Toronto and Raptors fans in an article published on the Players’ Tribune website. Ross was surprised by the reaction the piece generated.
“Everybody loved it. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m happy everybody enjoyed it,” said Ross ahead of Monday night’s game against Toronto. “It’s just something I felt like I had to say on my way out and reflect on the times and how much I’ve grown, the first part of my career.”
The 26-year-old Ross left an impression on his former teammates as well.
“He’s almost like a son to me,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. “You watch a young man come into the NBA, he’s wet behind the ears, learning the league, growing up right in front of you. It’s difficult that he’s gone.
“But like I told him, it’s a business. As much as I would have loved for him to stay here forever, it’s not going to happen.”
Patrick Patterson, who joined Toronto in December 2013, said that Ross developed on and off the court “a tremendous amount” in their shared time on the Raptors.
“When I got here he was just a kid,” said Patterson. “Shy, nervous, but over time his confidence just grew. His belief in himself just went through the roof as each day passed, each year. Next thing I knew he was dropping 50 and shooting threes on a consistent basis, dunking on people.
“He evolved into the player he is now. Seeing his growth on and off the court, a guy I enjoyed being around, hanging around, a guy I consider a brother.”
Ross said that he kept to himself on Sunday night, just settling his affairs in his old house, but on Monday morning he texted some of his old teammates before practice. While he was giving a full scouting report on the Raptors to the Magic at practice, his old teammates were joking about his 51-point performance that could have broken Carter’s long-standing record from February 2000 if not for a missed shot from the foul line.
“He wants to say that he didn’t realize how many points he had, which is why he missed that free throw, but I’m like ‘C’mon man, you know how many points you had,'” said Patterson with a smile. “That performance, his dunk in Denver over Kenneth Faried, there were just so many highlight-reel plays he had in his time here.”
When asked about the 51-point game, Ross’s old coach also has a long memory.
“I remember that distinctly,” said Casey with a laugh. “I remember the next game he had two points.”
Follow @jchidleyhill on Twitter
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press