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Casey & Ujiri at Raptors workout Day 5

Raptors Coach Casey Reminds Doubters He’s Been Here Before

It has been a record smashing season for the Toronto Raptors, but Head Coach Dwane Casey still hears the doubters that question his ability to take this team to the next level. At 36 wins and 17 loses heading into the All-Star break and no player on his roster that even gets mentioned in the MVP race (there are five points guards on Sekou Smith’s 10 player NBA MVP Ladder), what’s a coach have to do to get some respect?

“We are not done yet,” Casey said. “I’ve been there before, winning 60 games, winning a championship. I know what it takes. I know a lot of people don’t believe it, but I do and probably a lot of people in here don’t believe it, but I do. I promise you and (I’ve) been down that road so many times that I know there’s a lot of fake things that kind of mask mistakes, but we have got to keep grinding and there is another level we can get to on offense and defense. That’s why you can’t get too high or too low on wins and losses.”

Casey has been there before, as an assistant coach, but it was the Dallas NBA Champion Head Coach Rick Carlisle who almost forced Toronto into taking his then lead assistant because he believed Casey deserved a team of his own – again.

For every complaint about Casey’s coaching decisions during this season, there is hard evidence in the team’s record that should give even the most ardent doubter pause. Outside of the top team in the East and the top two teams in the West, no one can claim to be doing better than Casey.

Toronto is taking care of home court, winning 70 percent of their games at the Air Canada Centre. However, they are almost as tough on the road winning 65.2 percent of their away games.

Their record against Eastern Conference teams is a solid 70.6 percent and against the supposedly superior West, the Raptors have won 63.2 percent of the time.

Casey receives almost constant criticism for his team’s record against +.500 clubs. The Raptors are 14-12. In the East, Atlanta is 17-11, the Bulls are 14-11 and no other team is above .500. In the West, Golden State at 17-7, the Grizzlies 17-11 and Houston 15-14 are the only teams with winning records against +.500 clubs. Your reality check is in the mail.

Toronto is 8-6 against the top six teams in the East having swept Washington 3-0, holding a 2-1 edge on Atlanta and a 2-1 advantage over the Bucks (the bottom nine teams can’t be called top of anything). They are 5-5 against the top eight in the West having swept the Clippers 2-0 and split 1-1 with Memphis and Phoenix. The Raptors have held their own against the best in the NBA this season.

For the ‘yeah-but’ crowd, this Raptors team wasn’t supposed to be in this position yet. Sure Toronto was expected to easily win the Atlantic Division (they are 14.5 games up on the floundering Nets), but no one was expecting them to be alone in the conference’s second place with a 3.5 game lead over Chicago at the All-Star break.

Toronto is still trying to develop some very young players. Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have been in the starting lineup for most of the season, Ross only recently being demoted to second string because of a lack of progress and some head-scratching worthy poor play. They could have won more games by acquiring a solid veteran center in the summer and starting the season with both Valanciunas and Ross on the bench, but the Raptors are still looking past this year – even if their unexpected success is putting some pressure on them to change their minds. The “We are not done yet” statement shouldn’t be surprising anyone.

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




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