It was a sweat drenched and obviously irritated Head Coach Dwane Casey who addressed the media after the division-leading Toronto Raptors eked out a 91-86 win over the now 8-35 Philadelphia 76ers on the back of a monster fourth quarter performance by their 2015 All-Star starter Kyle Lowry.
“Thank god for Kyle because we didn’t play any type of basketball whatsoever tonight,” Casey said. “The way we walked out and got down 15 to nothing, if we are serious about a playoff team or getting out of the first round of the playoffs or whatever. If we are satisfied with where we are right now – then we are going to continue to play like that.”
With just four wins and five losses since Toronto returned from that rough Western Conference road trip at the start of the month, Casey has been searching for players that have been willing to earn their paycheck, but what he has been finding instead is a boatload of complacency.
“We got to make up our minds that we are serious about earning our paychecks twice a month,” Casey said. “We have an air of complacency and I don’t like it.”
There were rumblings from Casey previously, but those tended to sound a lot like coach-speak as the Raptors finished the first half of the season with the most wins in franchise history. However, the coach-speak has been over for a while now as Casey has been taking action in an attempt to drive his point home.
James Johnson has been enjoying a breakout season in Toronto, but Casey sat him out the game after Johnson took a silly technical foul sandwiched between two turnovers in the fourth quarter against the Pelicans and James has been on a short leash ever since.
Terrence Ross’ disappearing act since the Raptors got back from the West has forced Casey to move his third year wing from a starting role to the bench in an attempt to shake him out of whatever put him in his current funk. It hasn’t worked. Immediately prior to losing his spot in the starting rotation, Ross had gone 1-4, 1-8 and 0-3 from the field without doing anything else to make-up for it elsewhere on the court. Ross had a good first game off the bench, but his next two efforts would have justified a DNP-CD.
DeMar DeRozan looked pretty good in his first three games back from injury, but he’s been a hindrance in his last three games. DeRozan averaged 4.7 points on 17.6 percent shooting from the field and just 1 free throw attempt against Milwaukee, Memphis and Philadelphia. Since DeRozan’s return, he has stopped attacking the basket and getting to the charity stripe. After 10 days and 6 games, it’s time for the 2014 All-Star to shake it off and get back to playing his game.
Casey even started Patrick Patterson in the second half of the game against the 76ers over Amir Johnson. Amir had been producing lately, but he didn’t have ‘it’ in Philadelphia and Casey is getting desperate and doesn’t want to hear the excuses any longer.
“Some people have injuries, some people have nagging injuries, that’s one reason, but again, we’ve got to have a collective effort by everybody,” Casey said. “It’s not just one guy. It’s quite a few guys that have to come out serious about earning their money.”
Bad starts and lackadaisical play over more than very short periods of time had been foreign to the Raptors for over a year now, but inconsistent effort usually associated with mediocrity is back and in a big way. A coach can only yell so often and so loudly. In the end it’s on the players to pull themselves out of this funk collectively.
“We think we are just going to walk out and beat somebody and that’s not going to happen in this league,” Casey said. “I don’t care who you are and we haven’t done anything yet and we got to get back to the basics. They (the players) have to decide. They have to make a decision from top to bottom and we can continue to say, ‘we are going to be okay, we are going to be okay,’ but we are not going to be okay.”
Shots fired in public, but will the players respond?
The Raptors play the Pistons on Sunday at the Air Canada Center.
The Toronto Raptors had spent a franchise record 59 days atop the NBA’s Eastern Conference as they reached the midway point of the 2014-15 season with a record of 27-14, the most wins in franchise history after 41 games. It also marked the first time the Raptors had ever been alone in first place.