The game has changed, primarily due to the removal of the hand check rule and the allowance of zone defences, but something can also be gleaned from looking at some of the key defensive players Casey has leaned on in the past.
Most recently, of course, he had Chandler anchoring the middle (with capable assistance off of the bench from Brendan Haywood), while Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd provided excellent and rugged perimeter defence.
Biyombo shares some of Chandler’s strengths, while Leonard has drawn comparisons to Marion.
Bet on Casey urging Colangelo to upgrade defensively at the point.
Though potentially decent at that end, neither Knight nor Walker are anywhere close to the group Casey had in Seattle, which included the brilliant Gary Payton, as well as Greg Anthony, Nate McMillan, Eric Snow and later, Antonio Daniels.
Having stud defenders at the point helped make up for the fact many of those Seattle teams lacked a stopper down low.
In Minnesota, Casey had perennial defensive player of the year candidate Kevin Garnett to hold everything together and much of what Garnett did there, Casey had Chandler doing in Dallas this season.
The Raptors won’t be able to grab a Garnett, Payton or a Chandler in this draft, but they should be able to find a player Casey can work with.
And that’s a start.
A handful of Raptors are already in town in advance of a player-organized two-day workout that will see as many as six or seven Raptors fly in on their own dime over the next couple of days for some early workouts.
DeMar DeRozan is one of that group and he was there to hear Casey outline the expectations he has for them. DeRozan, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t think the coaching change will change his or his teammates approach.
“It’s not that big a difference,” DeRozan said. “It’s a new challenge but we’ll come in and we’ll take it on and continue to get better.”
DeRozan has worked with Casey during the summer at Tim Grgurich’s camp and says he’s definitely a good guy.
“He’s going to be great for us,” DeRozan said.
But while DeRozan said Casey has never come across as a predominantly defensive coach in his dealings, he knows where his new head coach’s passions lie.
“When you talk with him he doesn’t overload you with defence,” DeRozan said. “He fits it in around the game to where you understand you have to play defence if you want to get the ball or want to create some momentum on the offensive end.”
DeRozan was then asked if he would have to change the way he played to fit in with Casey’s style.
“I don’t think none of us have to change,” DeRozan said. “We just have to understand what he wants and take it on. No one has to change their games. It’s just a different theme of defence we have to take on.”
DeRozan just might be under-estimating the culture change that awaits.
Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors’ president and general manager who finally hired Casey, speculated that perhaps his firing lingered with him in the minds of executives. However, the Mavericks’ championship this season, aided by Casey’s defensive game planning, helped in erasing that legacy. Eventually, big names around the league were lining up to offer Colangelo testimonials on Casey.
One particular call, made at 1:30 a.m. on the night Dallas won the Finals, spoke volumes.
“I looked at the phone and it said [Dallas coach] Rick Carlisle. It’s 1:30 in the morning, and they just literally had probably walked out of the building, a few beers and a few glasses of champagne later, I’m sure,” Colangelo recalled. “Rick Carlisle said, ‘Bryan, I want to know what it’s going to take to get Dwane that job in Toronto. It’s right for him. It’s right for you. It’s right for the situation. You need to strongly consider it.’ I said, ‘Rick, first of all, congratulations. You should be enjoying yourself, not promoting your guy.’ ”
Casey will bring intensity and a sharp tongue to the Raptors. He will allow for a more free-flowing offence, continuing what Triano started on that end. However, his coaching emphasis will be defence, the Raptors’ shortcoming for seemingly forever.
“I’m up, getting on the guys, passionate about calling out directions, calling out guys during the game and in practice,” Casey said. “That’s who I am. Players respect that. I don’t go out of my way to embarrass players.
“I don’t want players to like me. I want players to respect me.”
“I’m passionate about what I do,” said Casey, the 54-year-old who took over officially Tuesday. “When we first started in Dallas three years ago we had a veteran team and I’m getting on the guys, passionate about things, calling out direction, calling out guys during the game and in practice.
“That’s who I am, and players respect that I would never do it in a way to embarrass players, but they know how I feel. I wear my feelings on my shirt sleeves. I bring that energy every day. I’m a hard worker.
“There isn’t a coach in this league who’ll outwork me or our staff. That’s one thing I’m going to demand of our staff because I demand it of myself. We should never leave the floor if there’s a player on the floor.”
It is almost inborn for him.
Casey’s reputation as a defensive specialist preceded, but his take on offence might ultimately have been his most interesting, especially since it was an area in which the Raptors were not totally abject this past season.
Doubtless, Casey’s assistant coaching staff will include at least one “offensive guy,” but to go all back-in-the-day on you, hearing him discuss offence was like finding a really cool B side on a single. (Ask your parents.)
I don’t know if it will work, but I know this: It sounds good when a coach talks about “free-flowing” offence and “playoff offence,” and talks about “trusting the pass” and how a good shot not taken is the same as a miss.
“One thing that helped us in Dallas was that we do not run a lot of set plays, because in the playoffs and regular season, teams are so well-scouted,” added Casey, who celebrated a 2011 NBA title as an assistant coach with the Mavericks.
Works for me: sign us up.
Casey beat out former New Jersey head coach and current Boston assistant Lawrence Frank for the Toronto job. Colangelo had said he wanted a new coach in place before Thursday’s NBA draft and Casey will help weed out possible picks after officially taking over.
Toronto ranked dead last in the NBA last season in giving up 110 points per 100 possessions, one of the best benchmarks for defensive abilities. The Mavs, who gave up 102.3 points per 100 possessions, were seventh in the NBA and Casey said it was simply because of hard work.
“It something we’re going to do in some shape, fashion or form each and every day,” he said. “Whether it’s shootaround, short practice, long practice, whatever. There will be a defensive connotation to it.”
Casey worked more than a decade as an assistant in Seattle before getting the Minnesota head coaching job in 2005. He led the Timberwolves to a 33-49 record his first season and was fired with Minnesota at 20-20 in the 2006-07 season. The Timberwolves went on to finish that season with a 35-47 record.
He has dealt with a variety of strong-willed players in a career that also included almost a decade as a college assistant. The fact the Raptors are a young, easily-molded team may, in fact, make his job easier. Bad habits have yet to be fully formed on most of the roster that’s in its early- to mid-20s and Casey will make sure he breaks any that have set in.
“Defensively, I’m going to be a hands-on control freak, so to speak,” he said. “You put your imprint on a game, physically . . . We want to make sure people feel us when they come through the lane.”
When Bryan Colangelo named Dwane Casey Raptors head coach on Tuesday afternoon, the Toronto executive was introducing his ninth bench boss in 16 years as an NBA general manager.
Larry Bird, the hoops legend, once said NBA players tune out a leadership voice after three seasons. History suggests Colangelo puts the number at something less than two. So it fits that Casey’s contract, which sources say is worth about $3 million (U.S.) a season, doesn’t guarantee he’ll be paid past 2012-2013.
The new coach signed a two-year deal with a club option for a third year. And if that timeline sounds familiar, it’s because it mirrors the prove-it-to-us extension Colangelo received from his superiors last month.
If you’re looking for a mutual incentive for GM-coach unity, a rare occurrence in a franchise that has produced soap-opera-worthy sagas featuring the likes of Grunwald-Carter and Colangelo-Mitchell, consider that both Colangelo and Casey, the former Dallas assistant, have a common interest in earning the security of that third year’s bread.
Indeed, there’s a lot to like about Casey’s entrance, so long as you understand that talent ultimately wins in the NBA, and that the Raptors still need loads more of it in their locker-room.
The 54-year-old was introduced with the appropriate fanfare Tuesday afternoon as the man who put the ‘D’ in ‘allas; the highly respected assistant coach who helped turned the offensive-minded Mavericks into a gang of stoppers who turned back Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and the Miami Heat’s Big Three on the way to an win NBA championship.
But it’s worth pointing out that Casey was very nearly given the Raptors head coaching job in 2004 when the club was in recovery from Kevin O’Neill. The position went to Sam Mitchell instead, the local basketball universe unfolding a lot more colourfully, if not as it should have.
And while Casey seems deserving of the accolades delivered on his behalf Tuesday — Raptors president Bryan Colangelo said he surveyed everyone from ex-players to agents to owners to make sure he had enough information to make what in the end he described a "gut decision" on his new coach — the reality is had Casey got the Raptors job in 2004, he’d be long gone by now; such is life in the NBA.
Perhaps even more pertinent is that if things were just a little different 12 months ago it’s quite conceivable Tuesday’s press conference would have been to announce a contract extension for Jay Triano, who instead got Colangelo’s Italian loafer to make way for Casey after leading the Raptors to a 22-60 season and their second straight year as the NBA’s worst defensive team.
What’s your current take on Andrea Bargnani and where do you think he can take his game?
“To me, he’s Dirk-like, as far as being seven-foot, one of the best big men shooters in the league, great hands, athletic. Where I see him getting better is being more focused on pushing himself each and every day, putting his nose to the grind and taking it as a challenge each and every day to be the best. That’s the determination I want to charge Andrea with and try to reach him with. I thought he made big steps last year when Bosh left. I thought he took a big step offensively to put more of the team on his shoulders and take big shots. But now the charge is to be more of a leader, to be a better defender, to be a better weak-side defender and there are some things we can do to help him with that. But it’s got to come from within. I mean, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. But we’re going to work with him, whether it’s holding him accountable, putting my arm around him, whatever it takes to work with Andrea because he’s got too much talent to let it fade and not really try to strain his potential out of him and try to get the most we can out of him. Again, he’s our star, he and DeMar are our core guys… That’s going to be our job as a coaching staff is to make sure every day we get in the gym, work with him and push him and see where it lands.”
A basketball coach who uses hockey highlights to motivate his players sounds like just what the publicly-funded doctor ordered for Canada’s only NBA team. The only way he could be better suited for the job is if he insists on changing the Raptors’ uniforms to flannel, replaces Gatorade with maple syrup and does other stereotypically Canadian things. Eh? Eh.
However, I suppose it is troubling that Casey was using these perfectly Canadian techniques while coaching in Dallas. That’s not exactly playing to your audience, even if they do have a hockey team down there. If he shows up to Raptors mini-camps with a whole bunch of high school football highlights, all bets are off.
“Defensively, I’m going to be a hands-on control freak, so to speak,” Casey told the media in Toronto this afternoon. “But I want defence to be fun. When you lock people up, that’s fun.”
Does this mean Casey will be able to work some magic with Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon and turn them into defensive anchors? Probably not, but Calderon has the will to be a better defender so you will probably see some changes in his ability to defend due to Casey drawing up some schemes that will help hide his deficiencies on that side of the ball.
Bargnani, however, is a completely different story. Even though countless writers and fans will point to Nowitzki as a comparison because they are both small forwards trapped in seven-feet bodies, the reality is Nowitzki had a desire to be a better defender.
Bargnani, on the flip side, just hasn’t shown that kind of drive and determination on the glass or defence at this point.
That all might change next season when Bargnani realizes he’ll be stuck on the bench if he doesn’t step things up on the glass or on defence.
“Our players will know if they don’t do their job defensively … (they’ll be) sitting next to me,” Casey boasted to the media this afternoon.
The San Antonio Spurs are engaged in discussions about trading point guard Tony Parker to secure a high pick in Thursday’s draft, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Spurs have talked to teams in the lottery, including the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings, who hold the fifth and seventh picks, respectively. The Kings are determined to get a frontline point guard, and have also talked with the Denver Nuggets about Raymond Felton.
It’s unclear who the Spurs would prefer to take if they acquired a high lottery pick.
Colangelo said that Rick Carlisle called him right after winning the NBA Championship and basically said what is it going to take to convince you to take Dwane Casey to get the job in Toronto. Bryan said that was the first of many endorsements he would here on his behalf. It all sounds great in a press conference. Casey said a lot of the things Raptor fans wanted to hear. The trick now will be taking those words and turning them into action. He seems to have DeRozan on board who was at the press conference and seemed excited about the change and the future. It seems clear that DeRozan is taking the steps to be the franchise player under Casey. DeRozan has a new hairstyle and a new coach that he has worked with in the past. While many have questioned DeRozan on the defensive end he seems to have a coach that will not only help him improve but the team around him as well.
“There are a few players in this Draft that would address…defence.”
“The best talent; the best fit. We have a young core we’d like to compliment.”
“I don’t want players to like me, I want them to respect me.”
…..Says he will get on players if need-be / whenever it’s needed but says he “never has and never will embarrass a player.”
“This team here has more athletic talent than that team did.” (Comparing Toronto now vs Minnesota – his 1st head coaching gig)
The team’s new bench boss joins Prime Time Sports to talk about the opportunity of coaching in Toronto, the challenges of retooling the Raptors’ league-worst defence and his role in mentoring a young team throughout the course of the season.
MU: You’ve been passed over for jobs. You were fired in Minnesota. How do you get back off the floor?
DC: I’ve been in this business for 34 years. You are going to experience a lot of things: rejection, you are going to get fired, I have also experienced a college and NBA championship. You have to take the good with the bad. It’s a journey and through that I have learned how to be resourceful and be who I am.
MU: Do you cuss in practice?
DC: (Smiles) A little bit.
Probably one of the biggest questions among Raptor fans, right now, is who is better, Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight. A better question, however, should be whether you should pick either of them.
Let’s be clear, here. I have only 3 players in this draft I feel are safe bets. Irving Williams and Kanter (yes, Kanter) I think are, at the very least, going to be legit starters on any team. There are no doubt going to be others, but I couldn’t begin to tell you who. That’s not to say there aren’t other players I like more than others, but I have serious questions about every other players.
Now, if the Raptors end up with either Walker or Knight, I won’t hate the pick like I did when Andrea Bargnani was drafted. With Bargnani, I pretty much knew what his ceiling would be, and it’s about where he is right now. A very good offensive player who is awful on the boards and on defense. There are aspects of both Knight and Walker I love.
Knight is, by all accounts, an incredibly smart person with a high basketball IQ and with a pro-like dedication to the game. In fact, he’s considered to have a maniacal work ethic, much like DeMar DeRozan. A very good sign. He’s also a great shooter and very good athlete with a probability of becoming a very good defender.
My problem is that he’s not really a PG. In fact, he brings many of the same skills that Jerryd Bayless did when he was drafted just a few years ago. If that doesn’t give you pause, nothing will. And the Chauncey Billups counter (he can learn the PG position) only works if you expect Knight to also to finally get it after 5 year and 5 NBA teams.
You see Dirk go on an absolute tear, as he fought through a 102 degree fever, an injured left finger and claimed his ring.
Then, you hear the guy responsible for revamping the Mavericks defense, just became your coach.
Next, you remember how your general manager, Bryan Colangelo, after years of coddling you, called you an “asset” for the first time in his season-ending press conference.
This is it.
This is truly your last chance. You’ve been babied, you’ve been hyped, then you were over-hyped.
Criticism was always there, and now you’re getting over criticized, but for good reason. You’ve never been more doubted, and your stock has never been lower.
Dwane Casey may be your godsend. It certainly wasn’t Maurizio Gherardini. Casey will certainly try his best to aid you, since he will see some of Dirk in you.
Show Bryan Colangelo, show all the Raptors faithful you’re a beast of a player. Show the world that calling you “Mehmet Okur” is a diss to you, and not him.
Most of all, show that you care.
- RUMOUR: Tony Parker a Raptor?
- Rapcast #112: Thoughts on Dwane Casey | Ryan Feldman from TheHoopsReport.com