Raps extending Casey was a must

Raps head coach Dwane Casey speaks about the improvements the team made defensively this year at...

Raps head coach Dwane Casey speaks about the improvements the team made defensively this year at the conclusion of the NBA season on Friday, April 27, 2012. (Jack Boland/QMI Agency)

Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 PM ET

TORONTO - Toronto’s off-season got off to a good start on Friday, when Raptors president/general manager Bryan Colangelo announced the club had picked up the option on head coach Dwane Casey’s contract, extending him through the 2013-14 campaign.

The decision was as much of a no-brainer as any during Colangelo’s time here.

Coming off an NBA championship as Rick Carlisle’s lead assistant in Dallas, Casey helped the Raptors make immense strides on the defensive end, morphing a club that had been a lightweight, a pushover for most of the past decade to a group that made opponents earn their points.

“I can’t compliment Dwane and his staff enough for keeping this thing respectable throughout the year, keeping the players focused before the playoff dream went away and after,” Colangelo said at his season-wrapping media address.

“The one thing I saw every night was a team that showed up that was focused and prepared and competitive. “We’re very, very pleased with the state of where we find ourselves.”

Colangelo said he felt comfortable extending Casey, even though his own extension has not yet been picked up, meaning his contract could expire in a year.

Casey earned the reward with his work this winter. Colangelo can earn his with his work this summer.

So, what exactly did the coach do? Well, he rattled off a few of his accomplishments in a non-boastful way on Friday.

“We go from 26th in points per game (allowed) to 10th. We got from 30th in points per possession (allowed) which is a huge figure that every coach in the league looks at to 14th. We go from 30th in points in the paint (conceded) to fourth. It means we are defending the paint and forcing teams to shoot contested two’s over the top which is basically our defensive philosophy,” Casey explained.

Two other eye-popping jumps for the Kentucky product’s squad were: Going from 29th to seventh in the NBA in defensive field goal percentage and from 28th to fifth defending three-point attempts.

To his credit, Casey recognizes that after accomplishing what most said couldn’t be done — particularly in the case of Andrea Bargnani — he now must turn his attention to the other side of the equation.

“Statistically, defensively, we were off the charts as far as what we accomplished. Offensively, we didn’t get there,” Casey said.

“Now we have to turn it around and make strides on the offensive side and that will make us closer to be that playoff team.

“I want to build a winning program. That is my goal. I didn’t come here to build a defensive team. I didn’t come here to be a defensive guru. I came here to build this program to be a winning program, to make the playoffs. That is my goal and that is our staff’s goal.”

To do that, Casey said he wants his team to play at a faster pace, going more up-tempo, but not at the expense of the defence.

A real training camp and actual practice time will help, but still, that’s not the easiest thing to do. Jose Calderon has never been that sort of point guard and all-around offensive talent will need to be added. Namely?

“Shooters,” said both Casey and Colangelo.

“I know you can work with players when you get to this level. But you can’t teach the type of shooting that you’d like to have with the three-point shooters that are born in this league,” said the coach.

“To get where we want to go, you’re going to need shooters.”

Still, Casey said he wasn’t sure “substantial” change was needed.

“I’ve seen teams jump when they’ve changed two players, three players. One player can make a huge difference,” he said, adding that he will work with whatever he is given, but has told the front office “what the skill level and what type of players we need.” (Hint, Casey wants good athletes with extreme compete levels).

He’ll get one guy like that in Jonas Valanciunas, adding the rest will be Colangelo’s task. Casey’s completed his for 2011-12.


Videos

Photos