In an appearance earlier this week on 590 The FAN’s “The Andrew Walker Show,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey revealed that he plans to give three-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan more time at point guard next season.
“We got to have a better mentality of ball movement, man movement and spacing,” said Casey, per Sportsnet’s Bryan Meler. “DeMar DeRozan, have him handle the ball a bit more as a point guard, a facilitator, a passer. Kyle Lowry moving the ball a bit more, spacing up. We don’t want to give our whole ‘what we’re going to try to do next year’ away, but again it comes down to passing the basketball and better spacing more so, than we know, one-on-one play.”
It’s something of a bold experiment by Casey, as DeRozan is a true shooting guard with a score-first mentality. But he took on greater playmaking duties for the Raptors when Lowry missed time in the second half of last season and has averaged a serviceable 3.9 assists per game over the last four years.
In theory, DeRozan could also run the point with or without Lowry (a 41.2 percent three-point shooter in 2016-17 and a strong spot-up option) alongside him. Perhaps this will be Casey’s way of modernizing his offensive philosophy, which has drawn criticism from a number of different sources over the years.
“And that’s just the effort, the competitive spirit wasn’t there,” the veteran coach continued. “[The Thunder] came out and played like it was a championship game and we played like it was the middle of the season game. And again, it’s not acceptable, bottom line.”
In fairness, the Raptors are dealing with a fairly major injury absence right now. But they are quickly slipping in the Eastern Conference playoff race and are now just two games away from losing homecourt advantage in the first round as well. Given some of the big moves they made at the trade deadline, Toronto appears to be going all-in on this season, so Casey is doing his best to convey that urgency to his troops as they don’t seem to have it right now.
It turns out that a lot more was riding on that first round Game 7 matchup between the Pacers and the Raptors than we may have known.
According to a report by Zach Lowe of ESPN on Wednesday, Toronto would have fired head coach Dwane Casey had they failed to win their playoff series against Indiana.
The Raptors lost Game 1 at home that series and needed all seven games to dispose of an underdog Pacers team. From there, however, they went on to knock off the Miami Heat in the second round (also in seven games), and now sit two more wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals away from the first NBA Finals berth in franchise history.
Casey, for his part, appears to have won a significant measure of job security by leading Toronto on this deep playoff run. But prior to this season, he was widely seen as a subpar head coach who could have gotten his walking papers at any time.
But credit to Casey for stepping up his coaching game big-time these playoffs. And given that Frank Vogel, the losing head coach of the Raptors-Pacers series, ultimately did get that fate of being let go by his team, Casey definitely has to be glad that he did.
“Kyle did not walk out on his team,” Casey said, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPN. “He and Cory Joseph use the bathroom more than any two human beings I know during the game. I don’t think he quit on his team.”
Lowry said the whole thing had become overblown.
“It’s whatever. I think it’s an overreaction, personally. I’ve done it countless times,” Lowry said. “Maybe I went to go to the bathroom. I’ve done it before, going to the bathroom. It’s just the magnitude of the situation, which makes it a lot bigger than what it really it is.
“So next time I’ll clarify, ‘Hey, I’m going to the bathroom,’ or ‘Hey, I’m doing this.’ I’ll make sure I’m clear on it so everyone knows.”
Lowry has a point about the story being overblown. That said, if he had to go to the bathroom, he should have just said so. It would have gotten a chuckle and made him the target of a few jokes, but little else. The “decompress” excuse has instead turned a non-story into a story and made Lowry the subject of criticism, creating another distraction with Toronto’s backs already up against the wall. He seems to have learned that lesson.
The Toronto Raptors are trying to recover from a stunningly swift exit from the playoffs, and point guard Kyle Lowry voiced some frustrations at his exit interview with the media Monday.
The Raptors won the Atlantic Division with a 49-33 record during the regular season and were seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference. Still, they lost Game 1 of their playoff series at home to the Wizards in overtime and then ended up swept out of the playoffs.
Following the disappointing showing, Lowry was clearly frustrated and said changes need to be made.
“There’s a lot of things you can say (publicly), but there’s a lot of things internally that probably need to be fixed,” Lowry said via the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk.
He was also asked about the status of head coach Dwane Casey and did not use the opportunity to completely endorse the man.
“I respect Case as a man … It’s not my decision. At the end of the day, if he’s the coach, I’m a player,” he said via Feschuk.
Though Lowry didn’t completely endorse Casey, many other Raptors players did.
DeMar Derozan, Amir Johnson and Lou Williams all were complimentary of Casey:
DeRozan: "I know Case gets a lot of flack. Case is a great coach. I've got to give him credit. He pushes day in and day out."
Despite questions about his job status, Casey said he expects to return as head coach next season.
“I expect to be back … our staff did a heckuva job working with the players every day. We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Casey said via SportsNet’s Michael Grange.
Casey also said there is nothing bad between him and Lowry.
“Kyle and I are family, you have good times and bad times … there is no animosity or bad feelings in our relationship,” he said via Grange.
Though the Raptors have lost in the first round of the playoffs two years in a row, they have improved each regular season under Casey. They have become one of the better teams in the conference under his leadership and should probably give him another season before re-evaluating. Plus, with Masai Ujiri in charge of the roster, they’ll probably have a few new players to help push them over the top.
Successful motivational tactics are hard to come by. Sometimes when you are a coach at the professional level, you have to dig deep to get your guys to play hard. Professional athletes are getting paid millions of dollars whether they win or lose. It can be easy to lose sight of the importance of winning, and that’s why new Raptors coach Dwane Casey came up with the most unique motivational symbol he could think of: a 1,300-pound boulder.
The massive rock currently sits inside the the Raptors dressing room as a reminder that they need to pound the rock all season in order to succeed. In fact, “Pound the Rock” has become Toronto’s new motto.
“I knew we were going to be a work in progress,” Casey said. “Every time we walked on the floor we were going to have to have something to get us to think about — how we have to get better, we’ve got to work to get better. It’s from a story about a stonecutter. Every time a stonecutter hits a rock, it may not break. You may have to hit it 100 times, but on that 101st time you hit it, now you crack the rock.”
The rock is there for the players to touch each time they pass by it, and as the Raptors break from their team huddles they now yell, “Pound the rock!”
“That’s our motivation this year,” forward Jamaal Magloire said. “As you know, rocks are hard to break, and our goal is to break that wall and to persevere. Everybody gravitated to it right away. I just think you’ve just got to remember it and always persevere and break through that wall — or break through that rock — as we say.”
And you thought motivational tactics like this one and this one were weird? A+ for creativity.