Toronto Sun

So a planned day off Saturday became a work day, the result of Casey being forced to witness one of the few times this year he really didn’t feel the defensive effort or focus he required was there in that embarrassing loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.

“Friday night I was more disappointed than anything because I thought our focus in the first half was down but for the most part, for the biggest percentage of the year, we have scrapped and fought with the most of our ability.”

And as much as he would like to work the players all four days before they get back on the court Wednesday during this elongated break between games, Casey knows when to pull back.

“Practice time is precious so I hate to give them (Sunday) off, but the human body can only take so much. We’ll have good practises Monday and Tuesday but they’ll be training-camp like as far as (drilling) fundamentals.”

The timing of this break and the one that will follow Wednesday’s game as the season breaks for the all-star weekend is by no means ideal.

Casey would much rather have the four days off spread out. He would also prefer more than one game to put these reinforced principals into action before another four days off, but then no one consulted Casey when the schedule was drawn up.

But even with that working against the Raptors, Casey will take whatever practice time he can get whenever he can get it.

And the bad habits that have been creeping in lately, make this as good a time as any for a little back-to-basics drilling.

“We have lost our attention to detail,” Casey said. “I know that’s a nebulous word but being in position where you are supposed to be when the ball is on the floor. Impacting the ball on pick-and-rolls, we have lost that focus in the search of trying to score points.”

Gant Daily

Despite playing on a very weak offensive squad, Jose Calderon remains the Toronto Raptors key playmaker and one of the NBA’s premier ball-distributors.

Calderon averaged 22 points, 10 assists, four boards, two three-pointers and 1.5 steals over his last four games entering Friday night.

In Friday’s embarrassing loss to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, The 30-year-old Spanish point guard totaled 14 points and dished out a team-best eight assists.

He added three boards, two steals and committed just one turnover in support of DeMar DeRozan’s team-high 24 points as the Raptors dropped their fourth straight game and 10 of 13.

In Wednesday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Calderon posted a double-double by scoring 16 points on 8-for-14 shooting and handed out 11 assists.

Though known as a talented playmaker, Calderon has had some issues with his shooting.

A Substitute for War

Among NBA fans, we still don’t know the ins and outs of coaches’ impact. For example, just how much should we credit the Bulls success the last 2 years to Tom Thibodeau’s hiring and the dominant defense as soon as he arrived? Is George Karl really making this Denver Nuggets team better? Truthfully, talent appears to be the best indicator. But what does seem apparant is that there’s defense and offensive specialists in coaching. Focusing specifically on defense, some coaches like Larry Brown and Scott Skiles can arrive on a team, slow the pace to a halt and always bring up the team’s DRTG to top 5-10 – But usually with a poor offense.

The Toronto Raptors are an interesting case study because by switching Jay Triano for Dwane Casey, they arguably went from one of the most offense only coaches in the league, to a defense first one. In Triano’s 2 full seasons with the team, they ranked 5th in ORTG in 2009-2010 and 21st in 2010-2011 (ranking top 20 most of the year before Andrea Bargnani sitting out the closing stretch of the season), but 30th in DRTG both seasons. One could argue that due to having as little halfcourt offensive talent as anyone, their ORTG had been too high, to make up for the brutal DRTG. By winning 40 and 22 Gs those seasons they played exactly to their talent level and what one would expect.

Now this direct comparison with the Dwane Casey era is less possible now because of Andrea Bargnani’s injury for much of this season making up a lot of noise in the comparison. They have dropped to 28th in ORTG and rose to 18th in DRTG, but Bargnani’s absence could be effecting both numbers. Here’s something that shouldn’t be effected by his absence though:

10-11: 8th ORB%, 25th DRB%

11-12: 21st ORB%, 2nd DRB%

Toronto Star

When next they put on their uniforms for real — Wednesday night at home against the Detroit Pistons — the Raptors will reach the halfway point of the condensed 2011-12 NBA season.

It has been, as expected, a season of ups and downs, good nights and bad, a season of discovery about the talents of a still young team with a new coach, a new focus and a new path.

There were no expectations on this team when the season began and they’ve met them.

But what about the individuals? How have the players measured up to realistic expectations? Better? Worse? About as anticipated?

Here’s a truly subjective look at each of them, graded against themselves and what they should or could be doing. An average year for their abilities gets an average grade and we go from there.

CBS

–Coach Dwane Casey has always wanted the Raptors to be tougher than they were and far more physical defenders than they’ve been in the past.

This might not be what he had in mind, though.

Not only do the Raptors foul out more often than any team in the league (8 disqualifications) they commit more personal fouls than any other club.

–The Raptors are certainly not a comeback team. They were down 47-45 at the half of their game against Charlotte on Friday and, as history would suggest, they went on to lose. The Raptors are now 0-9 this season when they trail at the half.