“This season is such a different season that you throw all the conventional wisdom out the window. Prepare as you go, by the seat of your pants,” Casey said after the Raptors went through a light (for Casey) practice on Thursday.
“Anybody who says they know how players are going to react to this situation — they don’t know.”
Casey said with practice time non-existent over the stretch, he will be taking his team to hotel ballrooms to go over plays.
“We did that (in Seattle, where he was an assistant the last time a lockout produced a shortened season). Mark down the ballroom and use it as a court. We don’t have a hoop, but we have a ball and we have a floor,” Casey explained.
Youngsters DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis said they played packed schedules in AAU ball as high schoolers, but aren’t prepared for anything like this.
But they will adapt. By getting extra sleep and by trying to eat right.
“It’s much different from high school, but it should be fun,” DeRozan said, before admitting: “It’s going to be challenging at the same time.”
Davis wasn’t about to feel sorry for himself.
“I know it’s going to be tough, but every team is going through a tough schedule. It’s not like it is just us,” Davis said.
The stretch will test whether Toronto’s astonishing defensive numbers thus far are a mirage.
Toronto is allowing about 10 fewer points per 100 possessions than was the case the past two seasons — an astounding number — and leads the NBA in lowest opponent’s field goal percentage (under 40%).
Bargnani and Calderon have been the keys in Toronto’s surprising defensive turnaround and 3-3 start.
Everybody knew Bargnani and Calderon were top-notch offensive players when in form, but the pair’s success defensively has been a head-turner.
“Defensively (Calderon’s) really doing some nice things for us and he’s showing a physicality to his game,” said assistant coach Johnny Davis.
“We require that our point guards set screens and he’s doing that.”
Casey’s praise for Bargnani — nothing short of a help defence disaster the past few seasons — was even more effusive.
“He was textbook defensively. If a high school or a college coach wanted to look at him closing out, tagging, they’d just watch the game last night ... because he defends perfectly. He’s really, really doing the right things,” Casey said.
“The attention to detail defensively is off the charts. He’s just got to continue to do it and make it part of our personality.”
According to Davis the squad’s confidence is growing and Calderon is the main reason why.
“Jose is a world championship-calibre player,” Davis said, pointing out Calderon’s international and Olympic success while leading Spain, currently ranked second in the world behind only the United States.
“He brings those things to us, that element of knowing how to win. He’s playing at a tremendously high level.
“He is a natural leader in the sense that when he’s out on the floor, he is in charge of what’s taking place and he’s doing a phenomenal job of that.”
Calderon is averaging 12.2 points, 10 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game while shooting 52.9%.
His backup, Jerryd Bayless, is still nursing a sore ankle and remains day-to-day. Casey said forward Linas Kleiza’s season debut “should be any time now,” while Aaron Gray remains a question mark.
“We have to go with who we have,” said the coach.
Which will make the coming grind all the more difficult.
DAVIS NEEDS HIGHER GEAR
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey didn’t like what he saw out of Ed Davis in recent games against New York and Orlando and let the second-year power forward know about it.
To his credit, Davis agreed his game wasn’t up to par, and responded in a big way against Cleveland on Wednesday night.
Davis scored eight points and hauled down seven rebounds in 23 minutes against the Cavs, shooting 4-of-7 from the field.
In the previous two games, Davis had missed 7-of-9 attempts.
More than the misses, though, Casey was concerned about what Davis wasn’t doing at the other end.
“Players know what are non-negotiable mistakes,” started Casey.
“With Ed it’s running the floor consistently hard, getting down in his (defensive) stance.”
Casey said Davis was not running hard enough and that’s why he pulled him aside to watch video on Wednesday morning.
“Play above second gear. When Ed Davis does that, he’s special, but when he does play in second gear, he doesn’t earn his minutes and that’s when his minutes are cut.”
Davis said he liked that Casey came to him to point out what he was doing wrong and said it was productive.
Quick off the floor and often in full sprint, Davis certainly shifted into a higher gear against Cleveland.