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Raptors’ Ross looks past rising stars snub to dunk contest

Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross (31) celebrates with a teammate during a timeout after scoring a three-pointer in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Raptors won 123-88.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Toronto Raptors rookie Terrence Ross is a man of few words.

Asked earlier this week if it bothered him that he was not selected to compete in Friday's Rising Stars Challenge game for rookie and sophomore players at this weekend's NBA all-star weekend in Houston, the 23-year-old struggled for an answer.

"I don't know - maybe," Ross said, after a pause. "I don't care."

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It is obvious he does care, at least a little bit, but Ross is not getting completely shut out.

The lanky swingman with the smooth release was selected as one of the eight competitors who will square off in Saturday night`s slam dunk contest featuring the league`s high fliers.

Although Raptors coach Dwane Casey chastised the league`s assistant coaches, who were responsible for selecting the rosters for Rising Stars game, for overlooking Ross, he said it all might work out for the best.

"He deserves to be in there, talent-wise," Casey said. `"Again, it`s one of those things, it`s a popularity contest…it's a glorified pick-up game. Whoever has it [the basketball] is going to shoot it.

"It's a credit to be named to it but I think for Terrence he's going to get more attention and more of a spotlight being in the dunk contest than he would playing in the rookie game."

While Ross might still be flying under the radar when it comes to discussion about the elite young talent at the NBA level, the Raptors insist they are more than happy with the progress so far of the player they chose eighth overall in the 2012 draft.

"He really did have a moment there where he blossomed," Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said. "He's regressed just a little bit in recent days. He's showing the signs of a normal rookie year, which is a little bit of inconsistency with flashes of brilliance.

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"He's obviously displaying a lot of that upside that we saw when we drafted him."

Ross's averages – 6.4 points and 16.9 minutes per game to go along with a .399 field goal shooting percentage – are far from earthshattering.

But he has had his moments.

He has led the Raptors in scoring twice, including a 26-point effort on Jan. 2 against Portland where Ross poured in six three-pointers. On Jan. 15 against Brooklyn, Ross hauled down nine rebounds and back on Nov. 27 against Houston he scored 19 points during 36 minutes of playing time against the Rockets.

"He's coming along," Casey said when asked to assess Ross' play this year. "Like all rookies he has ups and downs, good days, bad days. But for the most part he's made big strides.

"And one thing that really helped Terrence early was his defence play, active with his hands, moving his feet, having an awareness where the ball is, containing the ball, and rebounding. Everybody thought his offence was going to keep him on the floor but reallyit was his defence that got him the minutes, got him the time on the floor."

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As for the dunk competition, Ross said he has been inundated with suggestions on what he might want to attempt to wow the judges.

"Somebody's asked me to tap both side of the backboard and then do a .360," he said. "Just weird things, NBA Jam type of things that I'd never be able to do."

He said Gay actually suggested he just do a layup.

Whatever he chooses, Ross said he has a few moves that might surprise people.

"There's probably a couple of things that have been done," he said. "Try to do one of them at least. Who knows."

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