TORONTO - Dwane Casey foresees a nastier Raptors in the 2011-2012 season assuming there is a season.
But with labour problems colouring everything the league does these days, the new head coach remains focussed on what he has control over.
Casey is promising to hold players accountable for any lackadaisical defence and left no question in anyone’s mind what job No. 1 will be in the first year of the three-year coaching deal he signed Tuesday.
“One thing I do plan to do here in this coming season is help this team develop an NBA defensive identity,” Casey announced.
Had this been an open news conference with the Raptor faithful in attendance, those words might have brought the house down. That’s how desperate the fan base is for a team that is not only asked to defend but held accountable when it isn’t.
And if those words brought the house down these next few would have had them carrying Casey out on their shoulders were the fanbase in attendance.
“The only thing I control is playing time,” he replied when asked how he would motivate his new charges to play defence. “Our players will know if they don’t do their jobs defensively that their playing time will be spent sitting beside me talking about why. I don’t have a hammer and chain, but our guys will know how it is.”
A handful of Raptors are already in town in advance of a player-organized two-day workout that will see as many as six or seven Raptors fly in on their own dime over the next couple of days for some early workouts.
DeMar DeRozan is one of that group and he was there to hear Casey outline the expectations he has for them. DeRozan, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t think the coaching change will change his or his teammates approach.
“It’s not that big a difference,” DeRozan said. “It’s a new challenge but we’ll come in and we’ll take it on and continue to get better.”
DeRozan has worked with Casey during the summer at Tim Grgurich’s camp and says he’s definitely a good guy.
“He’s going to be great for us,” DeRozan said.
But while DeRozan said Casey has never come across as a predominantly defensive coach in his dealings, he knows where his new head coach’s passions lie.
“When you talk with him he doesn’t overload you with defence,” DeRozan said. “He fits it in around the game to where you understand you have to play defence if you want to get the ball or want to create some momentum on the offensive end.”
DeRozan was then asked if he would have to change the way he played to fit in with Casey’s style.
“I don’t think none of us have to change,” DeRozan said. “We just have to understand what he wants and take it on. No one has to change their games. It’s just a different theme of defence we have to take on.”
DeRozan just might be under-estimating the culture change that awaits.