Dwane Casey

Raptors Notes: Finals, Leonard, Lowry, Ujiri

Having the Raptors in the NBA Finals will help significantly boost the league’s global ambition for success, Jerry Brewer writes for The Washington Post.

The NBA enjoys promoting the league and the sport of basketball as a worldwide activity despite having the most of its events in the United States, scheduling games in countries such as England, China and India in recent years. The entire country of Canada has rallied around Toronto in its pursuit of an NBA championship this season, with some dedicated fans even arriving to Sunday’s Game 2 more than 16 hours before doors opened.

“It’s overwhelming because you think, when I look at all the international players we have on our team . . . it’s really brought us together, and I think it says so much because that’s how our city is,” Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said, according to Brewer. “That’s how the country is, that we can all relate to the multicultural or the diversity of Toronto and Canada, and that’s how our team is. They talk in different languages on defense. They talk in different languages in the locker room, and it’s like that in our organization. And being international myself and being from Africa, I’m proud of that.”

The NBA has generated more of a global audience in recent years, and with the success of the Raptors, these numbers could continue to grow. Toronto finished with the second-best record in franchise history this season at 58-24, one game behind last season’s record of 59-23.

There’s more out of Toronto tonight:

  • Kawhi Leonard remains the mystery man for the Raptors both physically and vocally, something the team is perfectly content with, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe writes. “I just try to take my experiences and just keep moving forward and just have fun,” Leonard said. “Like I said, just basketball at this point. Win, lose or draw, I’m still going to be living, still got a family. This is all for fun. But for me, it’s just the way I play. Until we win the game or it’s all done, then I’ll show some emotion. But I want to stay even-keeled while I’m going through it.”
  • Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com explores how Kyle Lowry became the last Raptors player standing from when he first joined the team in 2012. Since then, Toronto has undergone a series of personnel, coaching and culture changes, culminating in a spot in the NBA Finals this season.
  • Masai Ujiri deserves a large portion of credit for getting the Raptors through the Eastern Conference, Washburn writes in a different story for The Globe. Ujiri attributed some of his team’s success to former head coach Dwane Casey and former Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan for helping jumpstart the winning process in past seasons. “To give Dwane Casey credit, he prepared us for this, too. This is not something that started in one year,” Ujiri said as part of a larger statement. “I want to say that Dwane Casey and DeMar DeRozan are a part of this, they are part of our journey and how far this has come.”

Pistons’ Players Give Dwane Casey Rave Review

Despite a sweep at the hands of the NBA-best Bucks, the Pistons’ first season under first-year head coach Dwane Casey was a relative success, as Detroit made the postseason for the first time since the 2015/16 season and posted a 41-41 regular season mark, the franchise’s third-best record in the last 12 seasons.

And according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, Pistons’ players were largely happy with their first season under Casey as well, as he received rave reviews from his roster after his stellar reputation around the league was found to be well-deserved.

“Talking to people (last) summer, you hear the same thing – that’s a really positive thing,” All-Star forward Blake Griffin said. “Consistency. One thing everybody talks about with coach Casey is the type of person he is: great guy, very disciplined and cares about his players. I saw that through the course of the season.”

Casey was also given high marks by his players for being able to hold them accountable for lack of effort and execution while simultaneously refraining from being so intense to the point of pushing guys away, no small task for a head coach in the NBA.

“Coach Case has this calm under pressure that is pretty cool,” reserve point guard Ish Smith said. “He had his moments, like any coach, when the players are not giving you what you expected out of them. But we dealt with a lot of adversity. He never got down, he never was frustrated, he never got mad. The end result was the playoffs and that’s a huge tribute to his personality.”

Coach Casey was also able to cultivate a positive relationship with Griffin, the team’s consensus best player, which is yet another important aspect for any NBA head coach.

“We are very, very lucky to have a coach like him,” said Griffin. “A coach who stands for and represents the things he does. He was great this season. I really enjoyed playing for him.”

Eastern Notes: Gasol, Hawks Workouts, Pistons, Williams

Raptors center Marc Gasol is excited about the prospect of playing for Spain once again in the World Cup at China this summer, according to a FIBA press release. Spain is ranked No. 2 by FIBA. In his last international appearance, he helped Spain to a third-place finish at FIBA EuroBasket 2017.

“I’m closer to the end of my international career than to the beginning, but the motivation is the same that I’ve had since I started playing with the national team,” the Raptors’ big man said. “I enjoy the moments with the guys, from the practice to the camaraderie and the competition. I want to help the national team try to have good runs and win more medals and titles before I retire from international duty. I take it step by step and my first focus after the NBA season is on the next FIBA World Cup.”

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hawks are bringing in forwards Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Donta Hall (Alabama), Chris Silva (South Carolina) and Tre’Shawn Thurman (Nevada) and guards Kyle Allman and Markell Johnson (North Carolina State) for predraft workouts on Tuesday, according to a team press release.
  • All members of the Pistons’ coaching staff as well as their front office executives are expected to return, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Detroit reached the playoffs for just the second time since 2009 under first-year coach Dwane Casey and was swept by Milwaukee in the opening round.
  • Magic co-founder and Hall of Famer Pat Williams announced his retirement from the team on Monday after 51 years in the NBA, according to a team press release. Williams, who turns 79 this week, was GM of the Bulls, Hawks and Sixers as well as Orlando. He was promoted to senior VP of the Magic in 1996.

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Drummond, Kennard

There’s still plenty of uncertainty regarding Blake Griffin‘s status for the opening round of the playoffs. While Yahoo Sports reported that the Pistons All-Star power forward would likely miss the series against the Bucks, coach Dwane Casey said after practice on Monday that Griffin could play as soon as Game 2 on Wednesday. Griffin sat out Milwaukee’s 121-86 blowout victory on Sunday with a sore left knee.

“We need all hands on deck. He wants to play,” Casey said. “So when his body says he’s ready, whether it’s Wednesday night or Saturday (for Game 3), whenever it is, he’ll be available.”

Griffin, who worked out with the training staff during practice, said after the game that he wanted to play but the medical staff nixed it. Casey confirmed that Griffin is eager to return.

“He’s lobbying. He wants to play,” Casey said. “It’s the medical staff, the doctors are the ones making those decisions. Not me, not Blake.”

We have more on the Pistons:
  • Casey doesn’t think Andre Drummond‘s ejection during the third quarter on Sunday was warranted. Drummond received a Flagrant Two foul for shoving Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo to the court after Antetokounmpo grabbed an offensive rebound. “I’ve seen worse,” Casey said. “What do you expect our defense to do when you’re driving through there 100 miles an hour? Just move out of the way and let you go where you want to go?” Drummond was tight-lipped about the ejection because “I’m not trying to get fined.” There hasn’t been any indication the league will discipline Drummond for the foul.
  • Drummond recorded a minus-45 in the plus/minus category before he was tossed. That was the lowest in playoff history since at least 2001, according to Basketball-Reference. “I was more than ready. Prepared, ready to go,” he said. “I just have to do it a step harder.”
  • Casey felt his team played like it was just happy to be in the postseason while Milwaukee acted as if it had waited all season for the game. “The moment, playoffs, atmosphere, whatever it is, got us out of sync,” he said. The lone bright spot was the play of reserve guard Luke Kennard, who scored a team-high 21 points. “Luke was probably the most aggressive offensively of everybody and he was making the right basketball play,” Casey said.

Eastern Notes: Ellington, Wizards, Cavs

Detroit remains in the playoff race in large part due to the addition of Wayne Ellington. The shooting guard has made 38.1% of his looks from behind the arc on 7.8 attempts per game since coming to the franchise. Coach Dwane Casey sees Ellington’s use of his speed as a major reason why he’s able to succeed from 3-point land.

“If he was slow coming off, teams would chase him over and get there. He really comes off with speed and he knows how to change speeds to get open. [Luke Kennard] could really learn from him as far as watching him work out. It’s not just for games. He does it every day in practice,” Casey said (via Keith Langlois of NBA.com).

The Pistons were in need of outside shooting after shipping Reggie Bullock to the Lakers at the trade deadline and the team is glad it was able to nab Ellington after the veteran agreed to a buyout with the Suns. The sharpshooter will again be a free agent at the end of the season.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Wizards are working with prominent sports executive Mike Forde as the team looks to reset its front office, a source tells Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Forde is the CEO of Sportsology and was previously the director of football operations for Chelsea in the Premier League.
  • Bradley Beal has been a mentor to Troy Brown Jr. and the All-NBA candidate sees a bright future for the Wizards‘ rookie, as Zach Rosen of NBA.com relays. “I told him in the beginning of the year, you are going to see a lot of stuff throughout this year, and one thing I always tell him is, it is easy to just get caught up in the negativity but the more positive you stay and the more ready you stay, your name will eventually be called and sure enough, it was called and he performed,” Beal said. “He did excellent. He has been constantly growing. It is just a matter of him just getting more minutes.”
  • The Cavaliers‘ home arena will see a name change from Quicken Loans Arena to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, according to Tom Withers of The Associated Press. The venue is also undergoing “major” renovations.

Central Notes: Rose, Griffin, Young, Bulls

Derrick Rose hasn’t ruled out a reunion with the Bulls, his agent said in a radio interview on Monday. B.J. Armstrong said Rose is “open” to signing with the Bulls as an unrestricted free agent. He spent the first seven years of his career in Chicago after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Armstrong commented on Rose’s interest in the Bulls during an interview with 670 The Score which was relayed by the Sporting News.

“We’ll see what the Bulls have,” Armstrong said. “There’s no secret, there’s no doubt that in his heart, Chicago will always be there. We’ll see. I don’t know what the Bulls are going to do at this particular time. … If it presented itself, we’d be open to that conversation.”

Rose was enjoying a bounce-back season with the Timberwolves, averaging 18.0 PPG and 4.3 APG, before it was cut short due to injury. The former Bulls MVP had bone chips removed from his right elbow last month.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons All-Star forward Blake Griffin probably would be sitting out due to a left knee injury if they weren’t desperately trying to make the playoffs, coach Dwane Casey admits. The Pistons have lost four straight and need to win their last two games to ensure they’ll make the postseason for the second time in a decade. Griffin missed three games because of the sore knee but has played the last two, including a poor-shooting 16-point outing against Charlotte on Sunday. “We need him and we appreciate his effort, what he’s giving to us right now,” Casey said.
  • Pacers power forward Thaddeus Young feels he can keep going for several more years, Scott Agness of The Athletic reports. Young will be participating in the playoffs for the eighth time in 12 seasons. “It doesn’t look like I’m slowing down anytime soon. The good thing for me is I’m very, very healthy. I’m about 98 percent right now,” he said. “I’m just very happy that I’m able to play and able to continue to play. But I wouldn’t put a cap on what I’m going to play or what I’m trying to play. I have plenty left in the tank.” Young will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and will likely seek a multi-year deal.
  • Coach Jim Boylen said the Bulls could use more versatile defenders to compete in the division but he’s unsure if they should pursue a big-ticket free agent and divide up their cap space, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “How we spend the money and how it’s split up … I mean do we hope to get two good players for that chunk of money and add depth, improve our bench maybe or do we get one guy? It really depends on who shakes out [in free agency], who is available, and what happens to the rest of the teams in the league,’’ Boylen said.

Eastern Notes: Sexton, Leonard, Porter, Casey

Cavaliers rookie Collin Sexton has learned from his mistakes during his first NBA season, adjusting as the year progresses and becoming more comfortable in late-game situations.

As noted by Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, Sexton had several teachable moments earlier in the season that included getting his shot blocked late in Chicago, having a couple scoreless fourth quarters and more.

However, since the beginning of March, Sexton has managed to raise his play to a different level. By scoring 25 points in the team’s win over Milwaukee on Wednesday, he became the first rookie to score 23 or more points in seven consecutive games since Tim Duncan in 1998. No other rookie in Cavaliers history has ever achieved the feat.

“I think that has been a big help to him,” coach Larry Drew said, according to Fedor. “I think failure can be one of your best teaching tools. I really believe that with Collin because he has had the opportunity to sit over there and watch late in the game and also been in situations where he has been out there late, and it’s not always going to turn out positive, but the most important thing is you learn from it. I think as we have progressed through this season he has done that. Think he has learned a great deal being out there, whether it comes up positive or negative at the end.”

The Cavs have mostly been hammered with injuries this season, holding the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference at 19-53. Nevertheless, the impressive late-season play from Sexton has been viewed as a positive for the young team focused on its future, bringing a different level of tenacity on both ends of the floor as the campaign winds down.

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Kawhi Leonard has been everything the Raptors could’ve hoped for when they traded for him last summer, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star opines. Leonard has averaged a career-high 27.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 52 games, shooting 49.6% from the floor and 37.0% from deep with his usual stellar defense. His production on both ends is a key reason why the Raptors have already clinched a playoff berth with a 51-21 record this season.
  • Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. won’t shy away from recruiting free agents to Chicago in the summer, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “Of course,’’ Porter Jr. said. “Like I said, we’re going in the right direction, and once we continue to build and continue to grow here, I think when the league sees what we’re trying to do, people will want to join, for sure.’’ Chicago sports a talented young core alongside Porter that includes Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.
  • The sudden turnaround of the Pistons might be Dwane Casey‘s greatest coaching job yet, Sean Deveney writes for Sporting News. Casey, who was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year last season, joined the Pistons in the summer and is in his first season with the franchise. Detroit is 14-6 since the start of February, working with the star tandem of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond to generate success.

Pistons Notes: Trade Deadline, Brown, Bullock

If the asset-strapped Pistons are going to make a splash at the NBA trade deadline they’ll have to get creative. As The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III writes, Detroit would presumably need to unload some sizable contracts if they brought back a significant package and the players currently making big money on their roster – outside of Blake Griffin – aren’t particularly desirable.

Edwards writes that Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski isn’t eager to give up a future first-round pick simply to alleviate the cap burden of its weighty contracts (Reggie Jackson‘s $17MM, Jon Leuer‘s $10MM, for example) but those picks could be in play if a solid star comes along. Edwards includes Bradley Beal as a hypothetical possibility that might warrant such a return.

The Pistons have some players that could be considered modest assets ahead of the deadline, including sophomore Luke Kennard and fourth-year forward Stanley Johnson. Ish Smith and Reggie Bullock, similarly, could draw interest from contending teams looking to shore up their rotations with veteran depth.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • While there are plenty of scenarios that could hypothetically jump-start a Pistons rebuild, Keith Langlois of the team’s official website writes in a weekly mailbag that he’d wager the team stands pat at the deadline. The club may look to shore up its second-unit but lack draft assets to offer in trades.
  • Scrappy first-year guard Bruce Brown has struggled to showcase his elite defensive skills lately, something head coach Dwane Casey‘s believes could be attributable to a famous foe in the basketball world. “I don’t know if it’s a rookie wall or whatever, but just the concentration, the attention to detail,” Casey told Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “Those are mental things that young fellows usually make when they’re mentally fatigued a little bit.
  • In the same blog post, Langlois writes that Reggie Bullock practiced on Wednesday. The 27-year-old sharpshooter and potential trade chip missed Tuesday’s game with a sprained ankle that has plagued him and and off throughout the season. His status is uncertain for Thursday.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Morris, Wood, Sixers

The Pistons’ top brass is expected to meet in Los Angeles today to discuss ways to improve the team, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Owner Tom Gores, coach Dwane Casey, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and vice chairman Arn Tellem will discuss how to revive the playoff hopes of the floundering team and provide star forward Blake Griffin with a better supporting cast. Detroit got off to a 13-7 start but has lost 16 of its last 20 games.  A point guard and a wing player capable of creating offense top the wish list but the team’s cap situation makes it difficult to swing a deal, Ellis continues. The roster is littered with bad contracts and injury-prone players and the team is just under the luxury tax line, Ellis adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Tempers flared between Celtics players Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a second-quarter timeout on Thursday but GM Danny Ainge is downplaying the incident. The duo exchanged words and Morris, who apparently told Brown to play harder, shoved the swingman before Marcus Smart separated them, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Ainge told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe the altercation was no big deal. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” he said. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
  • Bucks big man Christian Wood is relieved that the team guaranteed his salary for the remainder of the season, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. His $1,512,601 salary became guaranteed on Thursday. He has a $1,645,357 non-guaranteed salary for next season. The 6’10” Wood has appeared in six games with Milwaukee while biding most of his time in the G League. “It’s real nice,” Wood said. “I talked to (GM) Jon (Horst) before the deadline passed and he said my time is going to come, I’ve just got to keep working, keep staying with the program and keep doing everything I’m supposed to do. He thinks I’m a good fit for this team.”
  • The 76ers named Annelie Schmittel as the team’s VP of player development, according to a team press release. She will be responsible for creating, managing and overseeing the holistic development and implementation of programs that support professional and personal growth of players, staff and families. She spent the last three seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.

Central Notes: Bulls, Thompson, Pistons, Carter

As the Bulls continue to navigate their way through the early stages of a rebuild, their core players have struggled most of the time they have been on the floor together. Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes that the core of Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen look confused when sharing the floor together and at this point, still have more questions than answers.

A big reason for this confusion is the injuries that have plagued each player. In fact, Cowley points out that the three players have only played in 15 games together, despite joining together after the Jimmy Butler trade in June 2017.

The Bulls have since added Wendell Carter to the mix and have changed coaches, which will surely continue to create confusion among their growing core. Of course, as the rebuild continues, there will be more faces added to the mix to compliment this core.

There’s more from the Central division:

  • Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson played a key role during Collin Sexton‘s recent stretch of promising play, but has missed the past ten games due to a foot injury. As Chris Fedor points out, Sexton has struggled in recent weeks without his pick-and-roll partner alongside him.
  • After their blowout loss to the Pacers, Rod Beard of The Detroit News reveals that the Pistons held a team meeting last week, with coach Dwane Casey and some of the team’s veterans sharing some positive words about how it went.
  • Wendell Carter has continued to prove he belongs in the league, providing energy and hustle plays on both ends of the floor. Sam Smith of the Bulls team website writes about how Carter is focusing on growing and learning each time he steps on the court.