The 2023 season was the year when the Orlando Magic finally said goodbye to Terrence Ross after seven seasons and 349 regular season games played.
It is easy to forget, but Terrence Ross came to the franchise in a deal that sent Serge Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors and an eventual championship. Ross joined a roster that was just never truly good enough to make any noise in the Eastern Conference.
Yet, Ross was an important figure in bringing some respectability to a Magic team and franchise that never found its way in the decade after trading away Dwight Howard.
Ross gave his all, and his nickname of “the Human Torch” was certainly an apt one during his time in Florida. The 2-guard always a constant threat to rain down 3-pointers on an unsuspecting opposition.
But Ross’ time was always ticking. Once the Magic decided to move on from the group that brought them to back-to-back postseason appearances in 2019 and 2020, it was clear Ross did not fit. And while his veteran know-how and experience helped the roster and the team, it was clear he was no longer part of the plans.
Especially as his play started to tail off.
Evaluating the season Terrence Ross had with the Orlando Magic is somewhat difficult because it is tinged with all of the good memories that he left behind despite all the struggles he had in his final years.
It is sad to see Ross currently buried on the bench of the Phoenix Suns after being bought out by the Orlando Magic at the deadline. But perhaps that is the best place to start when grading his 42 games with the Magic before leaving.
For years he was seen as the Magic’s main spark off the bench and a player who many believed could be a difference-maker for a contender in a playoff series. Well, Ross is in that position now and is yet to have that moment.
It is fair to say Terrence Ross’ peak may have come and gone, but it was worrying for him just how quickly Gary Harris was able to come in and take both his minutes and role on the team when he was healthy.
Ross averaged only 8.0 points per game shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the arc. That shooting was a good bump up from his career-low in 2022 at 29.2 percent. But it was not enough to make a consistent impact for this young Magic team.
Ross still had something to contribute as a solid shooter. He started nine games, as the Magic sought to find a guard who they could pair with Markelle Fultz (when healthy) or whoever they were able to have running the team on any given night.
For context, Ross had started two games total in the four previous regular seasons combined. Although some may see this as proof that Terrence Ross could do a bit of everything for the Magic, really it was the beginning of the end as head coach Jamahl Mosley struggled to find a place for him.
It is no coincidence that the 22.5 minutes he averaged before being bought out were the lowest he had played since being traded to the Magic all the way back in 2016. The 38.1 percent he managed from deep would have you believe the flamethrower was still burning, but that number is deceiving.
Ross only took 3.8 attempts from 3-point range per night. At his peak with the Magic he was hoisting up 7.3 efforts. But thanks to the emergence of Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, and the aforementioned Gary Harris shooting 43.1 percent, Terrence Ross found himself part of a changing landscape.
One that was no longer happy with him taking a lot of shots while the front office tried to rebuild the roster. The previous iteration of the Magic, one that featured Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, was the version that relied heavily on his ability to stretch the court.
While this version of the Magic were often toothless offensively and ranked in the bottom 10 in 3-point shooting, it never felt like they were going to call upon Ross to be the player to step up and try and win them some games.
Some fans were unhappy to see him bought out, instead believing the Magic could have gotten something of value back for Ross in a trade. True as that may have been, it is likely the front office were doing right by the player.
After all, this is a guy who had to spend a lot of his prime playing on some bad Magic teams, and who gladly assumed the role of veteran and leader. Never did you hear Ross moan and complain to the media, and he was the consummate professional.
Which is how his time with the organization should be remembered. That of a guy who once went for 51 points while with the Raptors, but who saw his game go from ridiculous athleticism to superb long-range shooting while with the Magic.
If we untangle the sentiment from the final season Ross had with the Magic however, it is a more straightforward affair. He lost his spot and his role in the rotation, and his playing time and numbers reflected that.
It was time for Ross to move on, and the final season spent with the franchise was one where his limitations were exposed as a young and exciting roster moved on without him. They came out from under his protective wing.
He left the Magic with every fan hoping the best for him, that he would end up on a true contender and have a chance to win a championship. That may yet be the case, but when summing up his 2023 season with the Magic, the flamethrower was well and truly extinguished.