April 25, 2012
Raps promise more excitement next year
By Ryan Wolstat, QMI AGENCY
A game still needs to be played to compete the 2011-12 season, but the Raptors are already looking ahead to the future.
While the team has impressed head coach Dwane Casey by maintaining effort and focus right to the bitter end — including during Wednesday’s final practice of the season, a 1.5 hour affair — thoughts are already on the 2012-13 campaign.
“This year’s been about learning. I learned about our players, they learned about me they learned what’s being expected for next year because we’re going into next year with a different focus, different goal in mind, starting from Day One,” Casey explained.
“The growth part, being young is going to be out the window. It’s going to be about getting to the playoffs, not saying that we’re going to automatically make it, but that’s going to be our goal. Not just developing. We’re going to the next step, past the building stage. It’s about winning next year.”
Toronto lost a number of winnable games with miscues down the stretch owing mainly to inexperience.
That will need to change.
“A lot of the mistakes we lived through this year can’t be tolerated,” Casey said.
Big man Amir Johnson knows that many of the fans who will attend Thursday’s finale against New Jersey — note the new 7 p.m. start time, mercifully pushed ahead from an hour later — would prefer another loss and better ping pong ball odds in the lottery and he doesn’t want that to be the case a year from now.
“We’re definitely going to take that (the fact some fans are openly rooting for the team to fail on Thursday) into consideration (and remember it),” Johnson said.
“The main thing we’re thinking about is getting better, what can we do as players to be better, reach that next level.”
Keeping with the spirit of getting this season over as quickly as possible, the players will meet with the media for wrap-up sessions before taking on New Jersey, instead of the customary day after breakdowns.
Many of those who remain on the roster won’t be heard from again until July, when Summer League gets underway in Las Vegas. Casey said Johnson and DeMar DeRozan have already said they will be around for informal workouts — three-year veterans can’t take part in the actual games — and the coach expects Ed Davis to see a lot of action, along with as many as three rookies, depending on if the Raptors use all of their picks at June’s draft.
“We’re inviting our veteran guys into Vegas to work out, (we) can’t have a camp, but just to work out, be there, be around the young players,” Casey said.
“It’s going to be a good time for us. It’s going to be Ed Davis’ first Summer League (with NBA experience already under his belt, he played five games in Vegas as a rookie before getting injured and the lockout cancelled the event last year). This is a big summer for him as far as getting in the weight room, getting used to being the number one option in the Summer League ... Eddie will be our No. 1 option, No. 1 focus point.”
The Raptors need to get a better idea of what they have in Davis and whether he is worth keeping around as the next stage gets underway.
Davis won’t be allowed to learn on the fly again going forward.
And neither will his non-rookie teammates. Casey’s made that loud and clear.
NETS AT RAPTORS
TONIGHT 7 p.m. SN1/610 CKTB
The NBA will hold its lottery on May 30. Toronto’s odds won’t be known until after Thursday’s contests and they will depend on quite a few outcomes. Here’s a breakdown:
* If Raptors beat Nets, they would finish tied for seventh-best odds of winning the lottery (3.55%) if Warriors lose final game of season — this would also happen if Cavaliers win final two games of season and Warriors lose. If everybody wins, Warriors, Cavaliers and Raptors would split the 6-8 odds (about 4.8% per team).
* If Raptors lose to Nets, they could tie for the third-best odds of winning the lottery (42.6%, total, divided by four which equals 10.65%) with two wins by the Cavs and wins by the Kings and Hornets. If the Raptors lose, but so do the Cavs (twice), Kings and Hornets, Toronto would finish with the sixth-best odds (7.5%). Those odds would be improved slightly if any of those three teams finish with the same record as the Raptors since teams split the odds if they are even (ie. if three teams finish 22-44 and that is the fourth-worst record in the league, they would split the 4-6 odds, which is 27%, total, or 9% each).
Last year, the Raptors had the third-best odds of winning the lottery (15.6%), but instead dropped to fifth.