Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey conducted his end-of-season press conference with media on Wednesday.We’ll be trying to digest all of this in the coming days, by the way. There was simply way too much to analyze in one piece, so we’ll tackle some of the finer points in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at some of what he had to say.
An opening statement:
“I thought we had a great regular season. We were charged as far as changing the offense, revamping the defense, and I thought we did both. What were we, third and I think fourth in both areas, so I thought those adjustments were great by our staff, our players, the buy-in that the players had were unbelievable. Our challenge and charge for the organization now is to move from regular season to the playoffs…That’s the challenge, that’s the gauntlet we gotta get over, that’s the mountain that this organization has to climb, and there’s a lot of history as far as that’s concerned over the years. I think everybody’s seen the same history with Michael Jordan, and that’s what we’re challenged with. I would say the improvement from playing those guys the last few years and the luck of the draw of drawing them, athe improvement is getting closer. That’s the encouragement, the motivation our guys should be upset with going home over the summer is to see how close it is, the margin of error is very small, but I know they made huge strides of getting closer to knocking ‘em down. They’re right there.”
On this being a ‘wasted year’ to some:
“We’ve had improvements over the last six or seven years of getting closer to that. There’s no shame in that, for me, there shouldn’t be for anybody. I can understand our players being upset by getting knocked out because we had bigger plans, but still, they have nothing to hang their heads about. Maybe for individual players it’s a wasted season but for our team and our program, it’s not a wasted year. Because of the fact that I thought we made great strides in changing the style of play, the number of wins. When we get bored by winning 59 games, I think sometimes our expectations aren’t realistic, but I thought that out players reached that. Now we’re talking about championships, which should be everybody’s goal. I do know that’s a goal that we have acquired here and a bar we have raised here, and I understand that.”
On whether he has a job:
“Nobody’s told me any differently and until they do, I’m still here, still fighting, still scratching, still meeting with players, and that’s all I can do. They haven’t changed my key lock. Door still opens. I had some meetings with Masai talking about what we can do better, what we can do better next year to get over the hump. Until that changes, I’m still here.
No, I don’t expect a vote of confidence. Like I said, I’m still here, nobody’s told me any different, so I’ve been approaching my job. I’ve read all the articles and texts and all this stuff, so I understand what’s being said. I’m not in the blind or dark, but I’m not looking for a vote of confidence or anything like that ’cause nobody’s said any different.”
On whether a change in voice might help:
“You can always look at it that way. Does Popovich have a different voice every year? What’s going on with that? I think consistency and continuity is something that’s lost in translation sometimes and I think the way we do it with our offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator changes the voice, we change our voices as far as scouting reports, so it’s not like I’m doing all the talking all the time. We’re very creative to make sure that’s fresh and upbeat. I know you guys hear me all the time and you probably get tired of me. But we try to keep it fresh from that standpoint. I think continuity in the NBA, you look at the successful teams and programs, and again, I’m not sitting here begging or pleading because believe me, the sun’s gonna come up tomorrow.”
On getting out-coached by Ty Lue:
“Out coached? I would say I don’t think that’s, I think we made a lot of adjustments. Matter of fact, we were criticized for the adjustment we tried to make. Some adjustments you make and don’t work out, and some you make and do work out. The speed and quickness, you wish you could make a substitution that way, those are things hopefully we all get better at. To get out-coached, I don’t think we were out-coached. 23 has a lot to do with it, to making the adjustments to how we play him. I thought we had a sound gameplan in each game. There’s adjustments you look back and wish you could have made in certain situations, I know some of the obvious ones are there. But there’s always things you can look at and say oh I could have done it here, but that’s in every game. Every coach goes through that. I’m sure Ty Lue did all that.
That’s where you wanna look at and improve as a team and a coaching staff, some of the suggestions coaches make and not make and the ones I take and don’t take, you always question that and look at that. Believe me, we have one of the best coaching staffs in the league. You get upset when you say you got out-coached. Now, did we make enough adjustments? You always question that yourself. That’s something you look at as a staff to get better at and I do the same thing every year, every summer, to do that.”
On whether the hurdle with Cleveland is mental:
“I do agree. I think when you get to this level, the semi-finals of the conference and the conference finals and definitely the championship, the mental toughness and I think mental toughness comes from experience, from getting knocked down over again, I know it doesn’t sound good but you look at all the teams that had to go through Chicago and the battle scars that they got, we were one of them in Seattle, you can just see the mental toughness that developed from that. That’s why I said, too, the difference between last year approaching Cleveland and this year, the gap is closing. It takes time to build those type of winning, championship teams and that type of confidence to beat the so-called champion. That’s where the mental toughness part, what he’s talking about, I think that’s what it is, is building those battle scars and going through the fire and getting hardened a little bit and understanding I’ve been in this situation before against Cleveland or whoever it is, and being mentally tough to understand it and be able to handle it. We were the second-youngest team in the playoffs, and to be able to handle some of those situations you have to have been there before and have the mental toughness to handle it.”
On the defense falling off:
“I thought we still finished what third or fourth defensively. They went down. I thought some of that is most teams at the end of the year, you look at all their numbers, the numbers went down. I thought the playoffs have become more of an offensive game in the playoffs. It used to be where the game slows down and that type of thing. But if you watch a lot of the games, the scores are going up, it seems to me the pace is going up. Our defense, I don’t think we took a full step back but we weren’t the defensive juggernaut at the beginning of the year. I thought that was one area. I don’t think we took a full step back but we weren’t the defensive juggernaut we were at the beginning of the year.”
On the blame falling on him:
“It’s part of the business. I take it. I’m a big boy. I’ve been through it. I know where we started here, I know what we’ve accomplished, I know the basketball world how they feel about us and respect us and what we’re doing, so it’s part of the territory. I take it. I accept it. I’m not running from it. I know we’re all in this together as far as our organization, our team, or whatever. I’m an easy target. I’m out here talking to you guys. I know how hard our staff works, I know how hard our players work, I know how hard I work to make us a championship team, and I think the numbers show it. I don’t feel sorry for myself, put it that way.”