Dwane Casey Wasn’t Worried About Coach Of The Year Votes

 

dwane_casey.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoThis afternoon Greg Popovich was named Coach of the Year for the 2013-14 NBA season.

One of the sub-stories from this announcement is that Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey picked up five first place votes and finished fifth overall in the voting.

A noticeable accomplishment, but not one that Casey was willing to puff up his chest about.

“It doesn’t mean a lot in the big scheme of things,” a humble Casey told me.

Casey was quick to deflect attention away from himself and back onto Popovich.

“My congratulations go out to Greg Popovich,” Casey was quick to add. “I’ve known Pop a long time. He did a great job with that team as far as resting guys. He’s got all of those older guys and still the amount of games he wins it’s unbelievable. He runs the show as general manager and president. That’s an unbelievable task. To win this award three times says a lot about him.”

DeMar DeRozan Will Bounce Back In Game 2

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To say Saturday was a whirlwind for the Toronto Raptors would be an understatement.

Masai Ujiri kicked things off before the game by swearing during a prep rally at Maple Leaf Square. The incident was captured on Instagram and by halftime it had gone viral and Ujiri was meeting with the media attempting to apologize for his comment.

Once the game started things didn’t get much better for the Raptors as nerves got in the way and allowed Brooklyn to race out to a 25-13 lead.

In the second half the craziness continued as the 24 second shot clock had issues and was out of service for the remainder of the game.

Through all of this turmoil and craziness on and off the court, DeMar DeRozan felt the pressure of playing the first playoff game of his NBA career and he didn’t play like an all-star as he went 3-13 from the field.

DeRozan didn’t score his first field goal until the 2:34 mark of the third quarter and he looked flustered by all of the different looks Brooklyn threw at him.

After averaging 22.7 points per game this season and 22.0 points in April, DeRozan only managed to score 14 points against Brooklyn in Game 1 of this first round series.

Despite all of the doom and gloom that came from dropping the opening game of this series at home, it’s not time to write off DeRozan’s chances of having an impact on this series and helping Toronto win the series.

Brooklyn defenders were sagging off of DeRozan all game daring him to shoot mid-range jumpers or three’s. Neither of those shots are ideal for DeRozan at this stage of his career as shown by the fact he went 0-4 from beyond the arc and 1-5 from mid-range.

Even more troubling is only three of DeRozan’s field goal attempts came in the paint. For a player that was in the top five in free throw attempts this season – he went 8-8 from the free throw line in Game 1 – he needs to be more aggressive looking for shots at the rim or in the paint.

A visibly frustrated DeRozan only attempted two field goals in the fourth quarter.

“It’s one game, man” DeRozan told a journalist who asked if he expects to bounce back in Game 2. “I know I’m going to go back and watch the film tomorrow and see what kinds of things we can do better on both ends of the court. Without a doubt (I’ll do better in Game 2). I just had a tough game today.”

Dwane Casey was tight lipped about what adjustments he’d make for DeRozan in Game 2 and would only tell the media while smirking, “You’ll see on Tuesday in Game 2.”

Casey may not have shared what changes he will make with the media but he knows DeRozan can get his mojo back in this series with only a few small tweaks.

In Game 1 Brooklyn threw constant double – and sometimes even triple teams – at DeRozan. That problem can be easily fixed by Toronto setting more screens for DeRozan.

On top of that, DeRozan needs to do a better job of reading Brooklyn’s defense and realize when they are sagging off of him they are daring him to shoot ill-advised jumpers. When that happens he needs to either swing the ball to an open teammate or take the ball into the teeth of Brooklyn’s defense and make something happen in the paint.

DeRozan’s body will likely take a pounding in this series, but if he’s able to bump up his free throw attempts while attempting more shots in the paint it will result in a big jump in his scoring while giving Toronto a great opportunity to even up this series.

Game 1 should prove to be an anomaly in this series as DeRozan will come back with a much-improved showing in Game 2 by playing more to his strengths as someone who can score in the paint and draw fouls.

If not, look for Brooklyn to make short work of Toronto in this first round matchup.

In The Scrum With Dwane Casey

Dwane Casey 2014 NBA Playoffs Raptors

Dwane Casey talked about preparing his team for the playoffs, when he realized this team could do something special and Toronto’s struggles in games starting before 2pm.

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Click here to download the MP3 of this media scrum.

It Doesn’t Matter Who The Toronto Raptors Play In The First Round Of The Playoffs

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All this buzz and discussion about who the ideal first round opponent for the Toronto Raptors would be in the playoffs is missing the mark.

The big focus right now should be on if the Raptors can fix their issues on the defensive end.

One of the main reasons why Toronto was able to have success this season is that for the majority of the season they were able to hold opponents to just over 90 points per game.

This month Toronto has shown slippage on the defensive end while allowing opponents to score 103.4 points per game.

Toronto has held opponents to under 100 points in only two of seven games so far this month.

It’s easy to point at Amir Johnson missing games this month as the reason why the defence isn’t performing at a high level. Johnson is 12th in the NBA in Real Plus-Minus according to ESPN and he’s 16th in the NBA in Wins Against Replacement (WAR).

Despite not posting gaudy stats, it’s clear Johnson is a key cog to the Raptors.

But it’s been more than the absence of Johnson. The team isn’t closing out on shooters like they should and they haven’t been rotating on help defence like they should.

“Our guys see the standings and the records but we can’t play that way,” Dwane Casey vented to the media last week. “We’ve got to pick our defence up and not have the mental letdowns we have been having.”

Toronto’s final regular season game is tonight in New York and it’s the perfect opportunity for the team to prove they won’t have a mental letdown. They have home court in the first round locked up and the Knicks will be playing without Carmelo Anthony. However, like New York showed last night against Brooklyn, just because Anthony is out it doesn’t mean they will be walked over.

It will be interesting to see what kind of focus Toronto plays with tonight and if they are able to tighten things up on the defensive end.

The Future Is Bright For The Philadelphia 76ers

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Losing sucks.

Being mired in a 26-game losing streak this season is more than just growing pains. It’s a losing streak that tied the NBA record and it was a frustrating experience for a young team barren of veteran leaders outside of Thaddeus Young.

But, despite this being a long and mentally exhausting season, it looks like long-term the 76ers will benefit from all the adversity the team and its players saw this season.

“I think all the players have improved” Brett Brown told me when I asked him about his highlights from this season. “It’s based on statistics. If you look at our guys – I don’t need to go through all of them – all of them have done something this year that they haven’t done in the past. Whether it’s an improved free throw percentage or three-point percentage or assist-to-turnover ratio (they’ve gotten better). We also have Nerlens Noel who has really developed while not even playing.

“I look back on this group with joy and tremendous fondness and affection because we have taken hits and they’ve shown they aren’t going to roll over. They are going to play hard tonight again.”

Brown was right as his team fought hard against a team that clearly had more talent. DeMar DeRozan was an all-star this season, Kyle Lowry should have joined DeRozan in New Orleans, and Jonas Valanviunas got some redemption after a horrible 72 hours when he scored a career-high 26 points while grabbing 12 rebounds.

All Philadelphia could do was have potential rookie-of-the year Michael Carter-Williams flirt with a triple-double. Their leading scorer this season, Thaddeus Young, was handcuffed and held relatively ineffective (7-17 from the field) thanks to some solid defense from Patrick Patterson.

Still, Philly was in this game until the final minutes and could have stolen the win. They gave Toronto a scare just like they did to Brooklyn earlier this month.

The Sixers are a young team that can gain a lot from moral victories like the close games against playoff teams like Brooklyn and Toronto.

“I think confidence is everything,” Brown explained. “I hope that we give our guys an empowerment and freedom to go play. I want these guys keeping their heads high and their chests out. They are all NBA players. Everybody talks about their resumes and their experience and their youth. It’s all true but I want them feeling bulletproof. I think the encouragement we give them is huge.”

Sure, the 26-game losing streak stings.

Being 2-8 over their past ten games isn’t much better.

But the future isn’t bleak for the Sixers. They have a talented coach in Brett Brown, a potential rookie of the year in Michael Carter-Williams and a player in Nerlens Noel who many pegged as being the top overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Throw into the mix that the team is likely to have two lottery picks again this June as well as a handfull of second round picks and it’s possible Philadelphia could be back in the playoffs sooner rather than later.

This season was a messy, depressing one for Sixers’ fans, but the future looks bright for the franchise.