Terrence Ross embraced Orlando, so the Orlando Magic embraced him

Terrence Ross gave Orlando Magic fans a peek at what the team's pick-up runs look like. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Terrence Ross gave Orlando Magic fans a peek at what the team's pick-up runs look like. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The first impression anyone outside of the Orlando Magic’s locker room got from Terrence Ross came on the day he arrived in Orlando.

Everyone who was following the team back then in 2017 knew the writing was on the wall. The Orlando Magic were not going to be able to keep Serge Ibaka after their gambit to acquire him at the previous year’s draft failed spectacularly. He was set to become a free agent and the team needed to recoup some value.

The Toronto Raptors, on the other end, desperately needed a big man to boost their playoff hopes. Ross had struggled to break through and had been supplanted in the starting lineup. The salaries matched and the Magic and Raptors were perfect trade partners.

When that deal finally got done at the deadline, Ross quickly made it down to Orlando.

As the Orlando Magic got set to play the San Antonio Spurs the day after the trade was completed, Terrence Ross sat in his new locker wearing his new jersey just waiting for permission to play. He seemed genuinely excited about this fresh start and new opportunity.

He would have to wait a few more days. Ibaka opted to take the full 48 hours to report and get his physical, holding up the official finalizing of the deal and forcing Ross to sit out. He would make his Magic debut a week later after the All-Star Break. His first year with the Magic was filled with injuries and uncertainty of where Ross would fit in.

Six years later, Ross is in a new home. Orlando officially waived Ross over the weekend, an expected move considering the veteran guard had moved out of the rotation.

Terrence Ross spent seven seasons with the Orlando Magic and gave fans some great memories. It is clear how much the connection between players and fans was felt in both directions.

And six years to the day after the deal that brought Ross to Orlando, he was on a plane to Phoenix and officially signing with the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

He said his goodbye Tuesday on social media, trying his best to wrap up six years with the organization:

A lot happened between that first moment in the Magic locker room and his final departure. There were big shots and big games. There were wins and playoff battles. There was a new nickname and new ventures.

Ross became an immediate fan favorite — just as he was with Toronto — and an important piece of Magic history. Ross certainly will get consideration to make the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame.

It is not merely for what he did on the court, as prodigious as it was. It was the connection he made with fans and how much he embraced Orlando as a city. That is abundantly clear in his goodbye video. But it was true.

The first place any player connects with fans is on the court. And Ross’ accomplishments on the court are many.

In seven seasons with the Magic, Ross averaged 12.7 points per game while shooting 41.4 percent from the floor overall and 35.1 percent from beyond the arc.

He truly made his mark during the team’s surprising 2019 run to the NBA Playoffs. He averaged 15.1 points per game and shot 42.8 percent from the floor and 38.3 percent from beyond the arc as he completely embraced his sixth-man role.

During a 22-9 run to finish the season and make the playoffs, he averaged 17.0 points per game and shot 39.3 percent from three. He was a player who could single-handedly shoot the team back into games. He had so many big moments in that run and he could literally do no wrong.

That is where Ross earned the nickname “The Human Torch.” Ross’ love of comic books and the pop culture influx of the Marvel movies made it a natural moniker for him. It also accurately described his play with how quickly he could heat up and score a ton of points quickly.

Ross’ easygoing nature made him easy to relate to too. He could light up quickly, but he was chill with everything else. He started a podcast during the pandemic break, keeping everyone entertained and giving everyone a peak behind the scenes.

He truly seemed to make Orlando home and embraced the city, raising his family here. As he said in his goodbye video, Orlando will remain his home and the place he grew up.

As the Magic transitioned to rebuilding mode, Ross’ place on the team changed too. He certainly is still young and can relate some to the young players on the team. But his desires to contribute to a winning team were clear.

Ross did not quite fit the vision even though he was the last major piece from the 2019 team that stayed around.

Ross’ playing time tailed off toward this season. He has played in only 42 games, averaging 8.0 points per game but his shooting bounced back to 38.1 percent from the floor. This after a year where he really struggled with his lowest scoring average and worst percentage since his rookie season.

He has not played though since Jan. 21, missing out on the last 11 games. The writing was on the wall that the two sides were ready to part ways. The journey was at an end for Ross with the Magic.

It is healthy in this league to make this change. The Magic’s goals had changed just as much as Ross did. But there was no remorse or anger about his departure. If anything Magic fans are eager to see Ross compete for a title. There will always be Terrence Ross fans in Orlando.

But goodbyes are a necessary part of life and a necessary part of fandom.

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This one though is a tough one even if it is necessary. Because Ross made himself an indelible part of Orlando and Orlando will seemingly remain a big part with him.