But please, let’s stop the Steve Nash stuff before it starts. It’s not happening. It will never happen. The notion of Steve Nash playing for a Canadian team is, for all intents and purposes, over. Multiple Raptors sources confirm the club has zero interest in Nash, and hasn’t since he chose L.A. “It makes no sense,” said one Raptors source. “It wouldn’t work for us.” And that’s OK. It is tempting as an idea, sure, fine. In Vancouver we always used to say that if only the Grizzlies had drafted Nash in 1996 — instead of, say, drafting point guards with top-four picks in the next three consecutive drafts — or traded for him in 1998 then perhaps the franchise could have been saved, which is romantic hogwash. Maybe he could have lifted the Raptors beyond their traditional sub-mediocrity.
“Play off of our defence right now,” Kyle Lowry said. “Get out in transition. Get easy baskets. Get [DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay] good shots. Make sure we’re playing in transition and not playing slow-down basketball, because our offence isn’t as up to speed as our defence.” Essentially: run. The Raptors have ranked 23rd in the league so far in pace of play. (A note on all statistics: The sample size is very small, obviously.)
Struggling or not, Casey knows the Heat will be a handful. “It doesn’t matter (when you play them), they’re a very tough team whether it’s today, summertime, it doesn’t matter. They’re prepared for every situation,” Casey said. Casey helmed the Dallas defence that beat LeBron James and Co. three seasons ago, but said things have changed. No longer can Erik Spoelstra’s group get thrown off or surprised by “blitzes and zones,” Casey said. “Now, there’s no surprises.”
None of us have any control over the bloated contract he received yet we do have control over our pure objectivity in assessing a guy’s game and overall contribution to a team with money left totally aside. I like what I see. Would he be a guy I’d want as a teammate? Yes, definitely. Would he be a guy I’d like to coach? It would be an honour. He gets it. He’s all about team and sacrifice. Smart and tough. Does he have limitations? Yes, but he’s a solid rotation player who you can count on and trust to try to do the right things and be in the right places. He won’t always be successful but you know the intent is precisely what the script calls for.
But just as obvious is that the Raptors would have little practical need for an expensive, veteran point guard—his passport aside. While it’s believed the Raptors would be open to moves that would land them picks in the 2014 draft, the Lakers can’t even offer that as they traded their 2015 first-round pick to the Suns to acquire Nash from the Suns and NBA rules prevent teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive years.
Gay, who’s averaging 17 points and 9.3 boards a night — he grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks — is co-captain of the Raptors this season with DeMar DeRozan, but he feels he won’t need to make much of a pre-game speech before taking the floor against the Heat. “Honestly, you shouldn’t have to say much, this is NBA basketball right here, and if you don’t get up for the best, what do you get up for?” he said.
What you almost hope for is the Miami game to be decided early so Dwane Casey can allow his team to rest and live to fight another day. Dropping a game to the Bobcats simply can’t happen if the Raptors are expected to tread water with their schedule that is starting to show its teeth.
“We’re still winning, we’re 2-1 and I don’t think I’ve hit a shot in five games, and we’ve only played three,” Gay said with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure the ball will go in.” On the plus side, Gay hauled in a career-best 15 rebounds on Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks and has helped the Raptors surge to the top of the league in rebounding.