Highs, lows of Casey's Raptors adventure
It has been a challenging first season in Toronto for Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. (MIKE PEAKE/Toronto Sun)
Dwane Casey, Randy Wittman, Keith Smart, Mark Jackson and Lawrence Frank should all get together at the end of the year and trade stories.
There certainly wouldn't be any shortage.
They are the five head coaches who took over young teams either to begin the year or part way through the season trying to rebuild in a year when the deck was stacked against any type of building.
Thanks to the condensed schedule courtesy of an almost two month lockout, the hands these men were dealt bordered somewhere between impossible and next to impossible.
Maintaining what you had in a season where fatigue was a constant and practice time was nearly nonexistent was a chore.
"It has been frustrating but also rewarding," Casey said, "because I could see some of these guys grow like DeMar (DeRozan). I got to see the growth defensively without practice time. I'd much rather have had it but to see our zone (defence) shape and form without practice time was pretty rewarding."
Here are a few of the highs and lows and oddities experienced by the Raptors head coach in his first season with the team.
MOST GRATIFYING MOMENT
"Just watching the defence grow. I never thought we would crack the top 15 in points per possession. I never thought we would crack the top 10 in opponent's field goal possession and then hold it for this long. That has been the most gratifying. Now we've got the foundation laid for next year and we just have to get some offensive firepower to go with that and go from there."
WHO GREW THE MOST?
"I think DeMar has grown as the year has gone on. Earlier I wouldn't have said that but he has grown in a lot of areas defensively. You can see him thinking the game now, where in certain situations before he was just playing basketball. Now he is reading situations, reading screens. Again, strength will be a big factor for he and Ed (Davis) but he has shown growth throughout the year and that has impressed me a lot."
WORST NIGHT'S SLEEP THIS SEASON
"First night after the Boston game. (Feb. 1, 100-67 loss). Getting spanked like that and not knowing how we were going to bounce back after that, but we did. I slept a little better after that."
MOST MEMORABLE GAME OF THE YEAR
The game at New York (Jan. 2) That was kind of our first win that kind of got us going. The home game against Boston (86-74 win Feb. 10) was another solid win. Those were really rewarding games.
WORST TRAVEL DAY
Without question it was that Memphis to Charlotte flight (March 17). They cancelled the flight the night after our game so we had to stay another night in Memphis. We get to the arena in Charlotte right around 4:30 going straight there from the airport. Guys want to shoot but they can't because fire alarms are going off so that was disruptive. Then the uniforms had to be washed so guys were putting on damp, some of them wet uniforms. That was a bad day."
THING YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT TORONTO BEFORE MOVING THERE?
"The passion the fans in the city have. I didn't realize it was such a big sports town. Not only basketball, but baseball and soccer and hockey. I mean, I knew hockey was pretty big but the support they have for their teams ... There is a segment of basketball fans in Toronto that are just rabid and you don't know that until you are there. That's been very exciting for me because I know when we turn this corner that fan support is going to be there."
MOST SHOCKING MOMENT
"Losing the Laker game at home (94-92 loss on Feb. 7). Just the way we went down. We had it in hand and a couple calls and then Kobe hits a couple of big shots and you suddenly go from this high of thinking you have this game in control to a real low. That was a tough point."
HIGH POINT OF THE SEASON
"The road trip where we won three out of five (trip started in L.A. with loss to the Clippers, then a win in Phoenix, a win in double overtime in Utah, a loss in Denver and then a rebound win over New Jersey, Jan. 22-29) was very rewarding just seeing the guys come together. It was also the low because that's where we lost Andrea (Bargnani), in the win in Utah. That was kind of the season."