A month ago the Toronto Raptors were heading out for a very tough Western Conference road trip starting in Dallas and Head Coach Dwane Casey was working hard to lower expectations for the post Rudy Gay era. Casey’s team had just lost 2 of 3 at home including a heart breaking overtime loss to Charlotte.
Now after losing 3 of 4 games including another heart breaking loss to Charlotte on Monday, the Raptors have come full circle with a very tough veteran Dallas Mavericks team about to invade the Air Canada Centre. Casey can only hope to see the same toughness and resilience the Raptors showed last time.
If Toronto had not dug deep for an impressive comeback win in Dallas, it is likely no one would be watching a division leading team playing in Toronto now.
Lest we forget what Casey was selling a month ago, it was player development ahead of winning games and a definite tone of resignation about the season. The Raptors were lowering expectations for the road trip.
“We are still in the building process,” said Casey before the road trip. “It is about Terrence Ross, growing him, getting him better. DeMar DeRozan is still a work-in-progress. Jonas Valanciunas is still a work-in-progress. We are still building – still in the improvement process of getting these guys better until further notice.
“I love the challenge of coaching young players. I enjoy that. I enjoy winning more, but I understand where we are and what we are about in the process of our program.”
Casey, the Raptors and their fans have all unexpectedly been enjoying winning since the their head coach laid out his understanding about where they were and if the team responds with the same effort and drive they showed after the last time the Bobcats beat them, the Raptors will get to keep enjoying winning.
In Toronto, it will either be the déjà vu all over again from December as the Raptors start a new winning streak or the kilometer wide but centimeter deep confidence in this team Toronto fans have justifiably developed will be proven correct once again. Losing games in favor of developing players gets hard to take after 5 years in the lottery.
This is a big game for the Raptors.
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Raptors Greivis Vasquez, I Can Start
“I have to get more consistency and I’ll get there,” Vasquez said. “I did it last year – whether it was a losing team or not – you can’t take away what I have done. I was a Western Conference Player of the Week – that was huge.”