Casey and guard Leandro Barbosa said the return of Amare Stoudemire, the king of finishing the screen-and-roll, should make Lin even more effective.
Playing physically and going after the ball will be keys to stopping Lin and Stoudemire, Casey said.
“If you’re lackadaisical on any of those two attention-to-detail situations, they’re going to score. That’s how Lin is getting a lot of his shots. Teams are not really up into him and he’s kind of roaming free and he’s doing a heck of a job knocking down shots,” Casey explained.
Barbosa, who starred in Phoenix for now Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni, said D’Antoni’s system is helping Lin.
“It’s a free offence, it’s just you make the basket you don’t worry too much about the defensive standpoint. He let the guys do whatever they want to do and if they do well he’s very happy about it,” Barbosa said, unwittingly throwing his former coach under the bus a bit in the process.
Barbosa, like everybody else, is well aware of what Lin has been up to (five straight games with at least 20 points and seven assists).
“Man he’s been all over the world … all we hear right now is just: ‘Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lin.’ “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.”
Like everybody else in the NBA, the Raptors could have had the accidental superstar, Jeremy Lin.
The difference between the Raps and all the other teams that missed out on their own version of Lin-sanity is they were forever close, forever knocking on the door, interested in Lin. Just not interested enough.
Bryan Colangelo liked Lin from the day he first saw him in a pre-draft workout in 2010. “We knew one thing about him after bringing him in,” said Colangelo. “We knew he was one tough kid.
“He took one of the hardest hits I’ve ever seen on a court and one of the toughest falls. He got hit from behind, crashed to the floor, eventually got up. We didn’t think he’d get up, to be honest. And he shook it off and continued the workout.
“We were extremely impressed by that.”
The Raptors were impressed with his toughness — just not necessarily his game. They talked after the workout, the general manager and the Harvard kid, with Colangelo unconvinced Lin could play in the NBA, unconvinced he would be drafted. “I asked him, ‘What’s your status going to be if you’re not drafted? Where are you going? Do you know who’s interested in you?’ I just wanted to keep the dialogue open.”
The Raptors have had all kinds of opportunities to reconnect with Lin since that pre-draft crash but for various reasons and circumstances, it just never happened. But it almost did.
It almost did just a month or so ago. Earlier this NBA season, with the New York Knicks in complete disarray and relationships rather friendly between Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, interim general manager Glen Grunwald, and Colangelo, there had been some serious talk about a deal for one of the Raptors’ point guards. No one will say who approached whom about what, but if you play the elimination game, it was probably the veteran Anthony Carter, who was supposed to be heading to New York.
When asked on Monday if he’s noticed any difference in the way games are officiated from when he was a coach with the NBA-champion Dallas Mavericks to this year, Casey replied that NBA referees are the best in the world and do a great job. When pressed on the matter — in the wake of two weekend games that saw the Raptors get burned by a number of reputation calls and non-calls, Casey said: “Are you trying to get me in trouble? No comment.”
Casey was certainly making a few choice comments on Sunday afternoon. With his team down by one with 4.2 seconds remaining to the Los Angeles Lakers, Rasual Butler — off the bench to inbound the ball — called for a time-out but was instead slapped with a five-second count violation by referee Scott Foster. Butler said he asked Foster to count out the five seconds aloud and turned to call the time-out when he heard “four.” Around the same time Butler called for the time-out, Casey did the same from in front of the Toronto bench. But Foster slapped Toronto with the violation, and the Raptors lost possession of the ball and the game, 94-92.
The Raptors were livid. After the game, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted: “Anyone see the end of the raptors game…? I know I will be looking for a tweet from @nbaofficial.” The NBA later ruled that Butler waited 5.8 seconds to request the time-out. Still, Casey felt that one of the refs should have heard him calling for a time-out. And there was a lot of grumbling in Raptors Nation later, the suggestion being that if it had been Kobe Bryant or Paul Pierce or LeBron James requesting the time-out, they would have received it.
Casey spent a part of Monday downplaying the Lin effect on the first Toronto meeting between the Knicks and Raptors this season at the Air Canada Centre.
Fans may be inundated with Lin’s story — smart kid finally gets a shot, thrives in the media capital of the world, stunning hype ensues — but the Raptors can’t pay any attention to it.
“I don’t know what Linsanity is,” said Casey. “I’ve heard it but we’re coming out to play the New York Knicks. They’ve won five in a row, they’re a hot team right now, they’re coming into our building, we have to be prepared to play and not get caught up in the hype.
“We don’t want it to be a sideshow — we’re here for business.”
If there is one thing going in Toronto’s favour, it’s that Casey has been game-planning against a pick-and-roll offence designed by D’Antoni for years. Lin may not be close to a Steve Nash in skill or accomplishment but he’s running the same stuff Casey’s been trying to stop for a decade.
“We went over two or three coverages we’re going to work against it and, again, it’s going to be our focus and attention to detail, how physical we are on the rolls and into the ball,” said the coach. “Those are the two things. If you’re lackadaisical on either one of those attention-to-detail situations, they’re going to score. That’s how Lin is getting a lot of his shots.”
Raptors draft pick Jonas Valanciunas has parlayed an excellent season into a prestigious award.
The 7-foot Lithuanian, chosen fifth overall by Toronto in last June’s NBA draft, has been named FIBA’s European Young Men’s Player of the Year for 2011.
In voting conducted by a panel of European basketball experts, Valanciunas beat out Spain’s Nicola Mirotic in the voting.
Casey said he got to know Lin two summers ago when he was an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks and Lin was playing for the Mavericks in the Las Vegas summer league.
It was there that Casey learned that Lin held aspirations to become a preacher.
Casey said it was also surprising to have a Harvard graduate in the basketball mix.
“My question to him was, why in the hell do you want to be an NBA player, you’re smarter than all of us?” Casey said.
On Friday night in New York, Lin dropped 38 points in a 92-85 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden.
Stefanski said he caught the tail end of the game on television at Real Sports, the glitzy sports bar at Maple Leaf Square.
“The place was going crazy every time he scored and made an assist – and this was in Toronto,” he said. “It was wild.”
Harvard is not known for developing NBA players.
The last graduate from that Ivy League institution to play in the NBA was Edward Smith, who played 11 games for the Knicks in 1953-54.
Stefanski himself is an Ivy League graduate in 1976 from the University of Pennsylvania.
He said Lin’s sudden rise is a great story, for both the Knicks and the NBA.
“It was funny back in the 1970s when I played at Penn, Penn and Princeton always dominated the Ivys,” he said. “All the other schools were always accusing us of doing something wrong to bring in all the best players.
“Now everybody’s complaining about Harvard bringing in all the good players.”
Raptors spokesman Jim Labumbard said that following Tuesday’s game, in order to accommodate the media surge, Lin will be brought into a separate room for interviews.
That is usually a move reserved for league heavyweights.
“I’m sure 20 [per cent to] 30 per cent of the people coming to the game with our group have never watched an NBA game before,” said Yen, an engineer at Rogers Communications Inc., who is also vice-president external of the Taiwanese Canadian Association of Toronto (TCAT).
“But they just want to see it for themselves and support him. He’s like us, his parents are from Taiwan, just like mine. They moved to Canada just like my family did. He reminds us and encourages us to work hard.”
It’s not the first time TCAT has organized a meet-up to watch Lin. Last season, when he was a bench player for the Golden State Warriors, they brought a group of more than 70 to cheer him on. This year, they will be dressed in red and white in the 300 level of the Air Canada Centre, and plan to wave both Taiwanese and Canadian flags.
“It’s been amazing. I thought he was a backup guard at best, and now look at his incredible five-game run,” said Haris Shih, who will attend the game along with members of the Republic of China Student Association at the University of Toronto.
“I didn’t realize his skill level was so high, and now it’s incredible to watch him grasp this opportunity. I log online every day to read about him.”
Tuesday’s game is likely to be the Raptors’ second full house of the 2011-12 season, according to team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.
“An Asian player proving to everybody what he can do has been amazing,” said engineering student Tim Cheng, who’ll be watching the game with a large group at Molly Bloom’s Irish Pub on the U of T campus. “He’s humble, and he’s a Christian, too, which is also a big part of his popularity right now. I feel like God is using him to deliver his teachings.”
However, we all crave validation. In that spirit, the Lakers were helpful on Sunday afternoon.
“Coach [Dwane] Casey is a heck of a coach,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said, unprompted, after the Lakers 94-92 win. “Those guys made a good choice picking him as a the head coach. They did a terrific job of mixing in zones and brought us to a standstill a little bit at times.”
It is clear Casey does not have the arsenal to put together a winning team at the moment, especially without the injured Andrea Bargnani. It is also unclear if Mike Brown, whose time in Cleveland was decidedly mixed, is a good arbiter of anything. Still, hearing snippets like that is undeniably promising and comforting for the future.
Jerryd Bayless, who has missed the past two games with a sore left ankle, will be a game-time decision for Tuesday’s game against the Knicks. However, Casey indicated he would likely be available to play.
Grunwald had recommended bringing Lin in for training camp last season and earlier in December, but Golden State and Houston had gotten in the way.
“I remember Glen saying after Lin got waived, ‘He can run the pick and roll and be a playmaker better than anybody we had,’ ’’ D’Antoni recalled.
But the Knicks had enough point guards on the roster by then. In the season opener on Christmas Day, rookie Iman Shumpert sprained his knee and went out for at least two weeks.
The decision, ironically, was made the next day when Grunwald told D’Antoni this was the Knicks’ chance to claim Lin — at least as a stopgap because his $788,000 contract wasn’t guaranteed. After 16 teams passed in waivers, Grunwald sprang.
“Lin and [Steve] Novak, they were both Glen’s calls,’’ said a person familiar with Grunwald’s daily waiver talks with D’Antoni.
Earlier that month, D’Antoni was more impressed by his new boss during the hectic period when the franchise did mathematical cartwheels — a series of maneuvers that began with Chauncey Billups’ amnesty waiver — to open enough salary cap space to sign center Tyson Chandler.
“Trying to get Tyson in those few days, his demeanor to deliver under enormous pressure was terrific,’’ D’Antoni said. “The way he went about it: calm, cool, collected through the whole thing.’’
Lin has morphed into a global sensation, suddenly a recognizable face around the world as the Knicks prepare to face the Raptors tonight in Toronto.
Grunwald? Most Knicks fans couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. He has remained invisible — despite his 6-foot-7 height — working behind the scenes in advancing former team president Donnie Walsh’s rebuilding agenda.