Severe growing pains for Raptors

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey yells out instructions during a game against the Spurs at the Air...

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey yells out instructions during a game against the Spurs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Feb. 15, 2012. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:34 PM ET

TORONTO - Halfway through his first season at the helm of the Toronto Raptors, Dwane Casey has learned that Forrest Gump was right.

Life — at least when it involves coaching the Raptors — is indeed just like a box of chocolates and the bench boss never knows what he’s going to get from night-to-night.

The Kentucky native has seen some big-time efforts and some poor ones.

He’s witnessed some draw-dropping exploits from his mostly young charges, as well as some maddening lapses at other times.

When asked what has surprised him so far, Casey was matter-of-fact in his response on Tuesday afternoon.

“The inconsistency.

“The difference in productivity each night is huge. Getting that consistency going from all our players has been our biggest challenge,” Casey said.

“I expected it. Am I disappointed when it happens, yes, but it’s something I expected from a young team.”

Casey said he saw elements of a “Jekyll and Hyde” squad as far back as training camp.” (We’re) still trying to push to that level of consistency that we’ve got to have to be a playoff team,” he said of where he wants the Raptors to go from here.

Improving in the “Red Zone” — the final two minutes or so of contests will be a particular focus.

Casey is impressed at how quickly the team has picked up his defensive schemes — particularly various zone looks — and believes with more practice sessions, even more variations could have been implemented Those will now have to wait until training camp in the fall.

Wednesday’s opponent, the Detroit Pistons, also have had to learn under the fly under a new head coach, Lawrence Frank.

Frank was the early frontrunner for the Raptors job and a later arrival in the Detroit search, but both men seem to be good fits in their new gigs.

After early struggles, the Pistons have rebounded to win seven of nine (including two victories over Boston) to get back into the playoff hunt.

“He’s done a heck of job because they were kind of going through the lull we’re going through now and now they’ve bounced back,” Casey said of Frank.

“That’s what I always implore in our guys to understand: ‘Hey, we’re going through a tough time, we’re going to have these, but nobody is dead in the East.’ We’ve got to keep that in mind, keep fighting keep plugging, that every day we walk on the floor we’ve got to get better. That’s the way you have to look at it regardless of the wins and losses.”

DeMar DeRozan is using the Pistons as an example that records — and fortunes — can change quickly in the lowly Eastern conference.

“Ya, we’re not that many games out of the playoffs (six and only three out of ninth before Tuesday’s games), all we need is a little winning streak, start beating teams we should beat,” DeRozan said.

“We can play with any top team in this league, once we start doing that (beating the lesser clubs) we’ll be fine. No panic.”

While that may be highly optimistic (Toronto would have to vault five teams to make an improbable run at eighth in the second half), the Pistons, once 4-20, but now just four games out of a postseason spot and the Jeremy Lin-led New York Knicks, prove that everything can change — and quickly — in this most unorthodox season.


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