Hey guys, I hope things are well. I haven’t posted in some time but as per my previous posts, I usually get invited to many personal meet/greet events on a small scale within MLSE and and my alter ego – Raptorfan(dotcom).
This morning I had the opportunity to share a few pastries and cup of coffee with our head coach (and yes, looks like he’s here for the year) Dwayne Casey.
In most of these settings, I usually do my best to ask questions rather than ‘sit and listen’. He was really receptive and forth coming with his answers. To make the reading experience a bit easier, I’ll just outline the Q’s/A’s and my thoughts.
Coach starts off with talking about how he’s STILL HERE, his badge still works and intends to make the PUSH that any team in ‘YEAR 3′ should have.
– last year was a series of events that went sideways and in turn took them out of the playoffs
– 4 and 19 start was just horrific; were there BUT lost many games they should’ve won
– During that time, dealt with injuries with JV, KLOW and managing minutes
– Says if we take away the 4 letters from the league regarding missed calls, all of a sudden, maybe the playoffs are a reality or they’re NOT in the situation they were towards the end of the year scraping and hoping for every win/loss….
– Says tho they received the letters, it doesn’t mean anything more than the paper it’s written on. It’s nice that it was acknowledged, but it really ends there.
– JV is a beast and is the right guy for this program; teams early in the year would game plan to go ‘AT THE ROOK’ and often resulted in him getting cheap early fouls; towards the end of the year, teams like ATL and BOSTON were doubling teaming him and forcing him to kick it out…he has the attention of opposing teams now
– mentioned that during the year, people questioned his substitution patterns and who was on the court when it mattered. Alot of it was feeling out who they had and what their guys could do. Admits that alot of the time, there were guys on the court who shouldn’t have been and hadn’t earned the right to be…
… led me to believe here that ‘upper management’ forced his hand a bit with the guys he had. He mentioned they did EVERYTHING to get ANDREA going whether it meant starting, coming off the bench, playing in crunch time and ultimately, you can only do so much, the player has to do the rest. We tried hard to get Andrea going, he’s a GAMER, has tremendous shooting skill…
– talked about him and Massai being on the same page and their interest in trying (no guarantee) of getting into the draft
…I chimed in here suggesting that AS A FAN, this team to me looks very young and in NEED of some veteran help. With limited roster spots, what are your thoughts on adding some gritty veterans as opposed to youth…
Midway through my question, DC was nodding his head as if he knew where I was going with it. He quickly turned direction towards his thought process being the same and the NEED for some veteran help in the middle. Guys that don’t mind getting dirty and are known for their gritty mentality and game play. He emphasized on ‘these vets’ being productive pieces.
My thought there was rather than a Magloire, Juwan Howard ‘locker room’ guy, they’re looking for more of a veteran presence who can give them extended minutes and be both locker room/on the court guys. Later in conversations he mentioned ‘…we need JunkYard Dog, Reggie Evans, TYPE guys and mentality in our program’
Q: Klow – I loved the guy in Houston, loved the acquisition when it happened, did well in the begging on the year, then tailed off. What happened? and is He STILL the GUY for this team?
DC …(para phrasing) Lowry has the skill set to make him a great player. Kyle (and he’ll the first to tell you this) was in the worst shape of his career coming into this season. He missed training camp bc of the abdominal injury and even when he came back he wasn’t 100%. Once he went down, Jose came in and we reeled off 5-6 wins in a row. That added to the psyche of Kyle. First injury now his role being compromised. When he returned, he still wasn’t 100% and got fatigued often. There were times when you saw guys blow by him, not because he couldn’t stop them but bc he was out of shape.
He’s butt heads with alot of coaches in the past… Iavarroni, Mchale etc. Kyle is a competitor and everyone knows that. Him and I have spoke alot and he knows that I NEED him to be at his best at all times. This is a big year for him. I’ve told him that this is his year and his shot. He’s got to be in the best shape of his career and be ready to take this team to the next level. It’s there for him to take. I’ve been texting Kyle alot, and he’s already lost 15 lbs. It’s great news and we are looking for him to be the guy – not just THAT GUY in a contract year. I’ve told KYLE, I’ve been spoiled with PG’s in the past, I had PAYTON and JKIDD in the past.
At the end of the year, we will assess if he is the right guy for this team in the long run. (he said this twice… which made me think a bit as to maybe there’s something more).
Q: In a league that seems to be conforming to the ‘SMALL BALL’ mentality of one big and 4 guards, what are your thoughts and how do you address it? The PACERS went more traditional and plus/minus game 7 played VERY WELL.
DC … Is all for the traditional way. Believes that if anyone comes in the paint, they should be HAMMERED enough that they know there’s more to come. Says in the beginning of the year, teams would stroll in against JV and Andrea. Towards the end of the year, JV was in their face taking a beating…but giving it at the same time. He grew up. Amir is our toughest guy and plays like it. He doesn’t let guys stroll in. We NEED that mentality to be successful. Guys like Aaron Gray understand that and come out to make it tough on people coming in the paint.
Liked Hibbert, Hansborough, West bc they defend and protect the paint in a TOUGH way. Says our program is very similar to Indiana’s and they want to grow it.
Q: In an ideal world… is AMIR/JV your starting front court or would bringing in a STARTING BIG and moving Amir to the bench be a better fit?
DC…The way I work is regardless of who’s on the team, spots are not guaranteed and I think with Massai on board, we share that sentiment. Last year we did alot to try to get Andrea going and no matter what we did it didn’t work. This year, we are going to let our guys go to battle and let the cream rise. Guys that deserve to start and have earned it will be there battling. That is how it should be and how it will be. If I did it any other way or held favorites, I wouldn’t be true to myself, the staff or the players.
(Massai snuck into the back of the room and chimed in)… I agree with Coach, it’s upto the players to step up and be a part of the team and find their role. Last year we dealt with a guy who many mocked and at the same time wondered why he didn’t get minutes… Javale Mcgee. We decided to put up with his ways, brush them aside and George (Karl) found a way to maximize his talent while limiting some of the crazy stuff he likes to do. It’s all about getting to understand the player and feel out how to maximize them.
Q: Andrea Bargnani … discuss
DC… Says he’s a hell of a talent but needs to figure out what he wants. Mentioned that they tried different times to get him going, different situations, but ultimately nothing brought him BACK. Says he feels sorry for him, bc of injuries and the cards he’s dealt. When he’d put him in a game, the crowd would BOO, when he’d take him out, the crowd would CHEER. Andrea let that get to him and didn’t like it. He also needs to understand that it’s the nature of the business and fans all have a right to boo/cheer who they want. At the end of the day, Andrea has talent and a tremendous shooting skill. He has to understand that tho there will always be criticism, some is warranted by the player himself. (SHOT at Andrea basically). Also said, IF Andrea is here we will try to maximize his output, however that will be. At the same time, we are willing to entertain trades for him and live with the fact that he might be a REALLY GOOD player somewhere else. It’s got nothing to do with anything other than being in a certain situation at the a given time.
… I thought here CASEY (with Massai in the room) closed the door on ANDREA Bargnani. It’s almost a sure fire bet he’s gone as a raptor. Not only did he say he’s not a fit (Basically), but spoke about the need for toughness in the middle (i.e. not AB), and with Massai around, he can coach freely (i..e not being forced to play players bc of BC’s rule)
Q: Canada basketball, future..thoughts?
DC … best thing they did was get Steve Nash. He’s a class guy and an ambassador for both basketball and Canada. Jay Triano, Steve, Rowan Barret…great team that will take this to the next level. Thinks Canada should do something with Scholarships and awarding them, otherwise guys will just take off to the states as they have been. Mentioned that he’s worked out his rooks with Tristan Thompson, Corey Joseph, his brother Devo and other Canadian talent. Says their facility is OPEN for them all year round and they take advantage of it and show up. It’s great for Canada, great for the Raptors (to build rappore) and great for the country. Bright future here.
MU … echoe’d DC saying Steve Nash was sheer genius and a MUST HAVE. It’s in good hands.
Q: (to Massai) … Whats #1 Action Item …
MU … Culture, Branding, Winning. We are not here to put a perennial playoff team on the floor year after year. If you ask me to go make this team a playoff team, it’s a PIECE OF CAKE. EASY! We can do that no problem. But WHO wants that? what’s the point of just playoffs? We are here now to change the culture of this franchise and give it an identity. We want the best players for our system and we will go get them. For those that say players wont come here etc.. I don’t believe all that or get caught up in it. It’s not the country or the city … it’s basketball. If there’s a culture here, an identity and something that players know they can be a part of, we won’t have any issues. And even if we do, we don’t want to those guys anyway. We want players that want to be here for the sake of basketball and WINNING Championships.
…says he just met with 30 some odd business men from Denver who were doing research on the city (for whatever reason) and they immediately told him….’ …we totally get WHY you left Denver to come here’. Says it’s a great city, loves it and looked at Toronto as a SLEEPING GIANT. Pieces exist but so much that could be done to make this a winner. This is why he took the job.
…says he owes it to the fans to put a winner on the floor year in year out. On his way back from some rookie combine (in Europe somewhere, forget the city now) and he said ELEVEN..ELEVEN people recognized him in the airport from Toronto and congratulated/greeted him. That never happened to me in DENVER! (laughs) When I used to come here as a visiting GM (Denver) I would notice that the fans were loud and there was a huge fan base here. Compares it to GS and says it could very easily be just like them…just need to put a winner together.
Q: (A person who works for Twitter)…Coach, how do we get you on twitter??
MU … laughs and says OK GUYS, that’s my queue to leave and parts ways.
DC … says everyone’s been on him about that and it’s something he will consider. Consider ONLY bc it’s for the fans and keeping them interacted is important. He says he’s ‘old school’ and is just getting used to texting. Says NBA players don’t pick up their phones, but they definitely reply to texts. He likes that and will look into Twitter.
Q: Rudy Gay, his fit, what he needs to do this year.
DC … Rudy is a great talent and has the respect of the league and officials. When he came in, he gave us that BOOST OF CONFIDENCE that we needed. He’s a STAR. He knows the game and knows how to play it. Rudy is a guy who has a ton of confidence on the offensive end. When he gets the ball, and gets in the motion (coach mimicking cross overs), he knows he can score on the opposition. He gets ‘geeked’ up for the matchups vs Lebron, Carmelo etc. What we NEED from Rudy is to do that EVERY NIGHT, against even the 2nd or 3rd tier players whomever they might be. Rudy and I are very close and we talk often. He offers alot of insight on strategy and offers suggestions. I’ve told him, that he needs to TAKE THIS TEAM and MAKE IT HIS. We have talent on this team but no disrespect to our guys, RUDY IS OUR GUY. I’ve told him that we need him to be a different guy than he was in Memphis. There, he could have off nights or the luxury of having Zach and Marc with him to spread the load. HERE, we NEED him to drop 25 points a night and a grab few rebounds. He’s up for it,wants it and wants to be an ALL STAR.
Q: Since Jose left, Who’s the most vocal in the locker room?
DC … that’s something we need to also address. Our guys are good but we need a few more voices. Rudy does speak up, but at the same time coming to the team mid-season he wasn’t entirely comfortable taking ownership of the team and I get that. Demar’s personality isn’t such to speak or call guys out, he leads by example. AMIR is our toughest and hardest working guy, but too doesn’t speak much and again, shows by example. Rudy has taken over the lockeroom a few times but I think with a new season coming up he’ll take that upon himself. We NEED him to be that guy. Kyle does his fair share also. We need Rudy to be that guy, point guys out and say ‘ YOU missed that defensive assignment, or That rebound was YOURS’…mentioned that if a guy like JV messed up, Rudy’s gotta be on him. Then quickly followed up to say, that (with JV) doesn’t happen often…
Q: The Raptors have known for drafting ‘GOOD GUYS’ rather than the ‘MOST SKILLED’… can you speak on that?
DC … Yes, we do look for character guys and some analytics are involved. Ultimately said, as long as the guy isn’t in trouble with the LAW or a true troublemaker, and can contribute effectively he’s on board. Look at the SPURS, they harnessed Stephen Jackson for quite some time. Says they do look for good guys, but that’s not the end all be all.
Wrapped up by saying keep with us and the team, big things are in the works and this is the year that everything comes to fruition. He spoke highly of Massai saying he brings a new element of FRESHNESS To this team by looking at our roster FULL CIRCLE ( a slight at BC) and knows where our strengths and weaknesses are. We are not looking to bring a playoff team to this city but a top seeded franchise that’ll be competitive night in and night out.
Thank you ~
That pretty much wraps up the breakfast this morning. I think i covered most of it (From what I could recall of memory). Looks good, things are in the right direction. DEFINITELY looks like Casey is here for another year. What was news to me was the few (unofficial) jabs that he took at BC at his inclination/love for Bargnani. Tho Casey always defended the guy last year, I think it was all under the BC umbrella. It was pretty evident to me that Casey ALSO wants Bargnani gone. He mentioned that maybe swapping him out for a veteran player that fills a NEED is an option. I think they’re willing to lose their shirts just to trade him out and get a serviceable piece back. That’d be a HUGE Slap in BC’s face if they tossed him for nothing.
In terms of tanking…doesn’t look like it all all, so put it to rest WIGGINS LOVERS…it’d be GREAT, but won’t happen. Not with our pick anyway.
Hope that gave you guys some good insight for what the thought process is early this offseason.
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