Just another game for Casey facing Mavs

Raptors coach Dwane Casey. (REUTERS)

Raptors coach Dwane Casey. (REUTERS)

Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:04 PM ET

On the eve of his return to Dallas, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey wasn’t about to get all sentimental.

Casey spent three seasons as an assistant with the Mavericks, a run that culminated with an NBA championship last season.

Casey has great memories of his time in Texas, but refuses to get caught up in the hoopla of the occasion.

“It’s another game, there’s 29 teams,” Casey said after putting the Raptors through the paces on Thursday at the Air Canada Centre.

“It’s a special place in my heart because we won the championship there last year ... but we’re going there for business. It’s not going to be a social call for me. We can be friends next summer.”

Casey said he has not been fitted for a championship ring yet so doesn’t expect to receive the opulent bauble commissioned by billionaire Mavs owner Mark Cuban on Friday. This will be the only meeting of the season between the two clubs.

All Casey is worried about is making sure his young team works hard against the reeling titlists, who had dropped all four regular or pre-season contests heading into Thursday night’s game in Oklahoma City.

“We’re going in there to compete and play with a swagger,” he said.

Forward James Johnson seemed on board with the message.

“We’re as tough as any team out there and we’re going to compete with any team out there. We’re not too amused with their championship status — congratulations, but this is a new year,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, Casey’s familiarity with the Mavericks should come in handy.

“He knows their flaws. At the end of the day, that’s going to help us out a lot.”

Having lost defensive standouts Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson along with offensive sparkplug J.J. Barea, Dallas has looked terrible so far. However, Casey cautioned that nobody should jump off the bandwagon yet.

“They still have a solid team,” said the coach.

“They’re off to a tough start, but once they get going, they’ll be a team to be reckoned with. Rick’s (Carlisle) an excellent coach. Last year we lost seven games in a row and he found a way to get us back on track and they’ll be back on track.”

Carlisle has long been a strong supporter of his former assistant.

A year ago, when Casey took over for a game after Carlisle had surgery, Carlisle told ESPN: “I can’t believe he’s not a head coach in this league, but everyone’s loss is our gain.

“Everyone that’s passed him up probably wishes that they would have hired him. He does a great job for us and he’ll be back doing that at some point.”

Carlisle was proven correct when the Raptors keyed on Casey last summer as the man to turn around a struggling organization.

In two games under Casey, a team that allowed opponents to shoot an ugly 48.2% from the field a season ago and was last in the league in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions), had held the Pacers and Cavaliers to 40.4% shooting.

More than the stats though, the Raptors have made it clear to opponents through physical, hard-nosed play, that they no longer will be pushovers.

And that’s exactly what Casey is looking for.

The Raptors stunned the Mavericks in Dallas last season and DeMar DeRozan feels that memory and the fact Dallas will be coming off of a tough road game should play in Toronto’s favour.

“We know we beat them last year. We play them on a back-to-back, that just betters our chances,” DeRozan said.

Forcing the aging Mavs to run and attacking them early will be a key, according to DeRozan.

For Andrea Bargnani, it will be sticking to the defensive gameplan for a full 48 minutes after a few letdowns against the Pacers.

As for winning one for the Gipper? Johnson refused to respond to that clichéd idea with one of his own.

“We’re going to win it for ourselves and hopefully get one for (Casey) too,” he said.

 


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