November 9, 2012
Raptors' Landry Fields, Kyle Lowry questionable for Saturday
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
Dwane Casey wasn’t quite ready to show his hand.
The Raptors head coach who hinted at lineup changes following an ugly loss in Dallas once again admitted those could still come by Saturday’s game against Philly at the Air Canada Centre.
But like a poker player who doesn’t want to provide any information to his opponents, Casey advised a group of media after practice that they would have to wait and see what game day brought.
What Casey did reveal after the formal part of his post-practice scrum broke up was that Landry Fields, a guy many had pegged to be looking at a possible demotion to the second unit, left the Air Canada Centre to have his right hand examined.
Seems the hand has been bothering Fields for a couple of weeks now. Casey said he would undergo “precautionary” testing which will tell the Raptors if it’s anything structural.
While an injury of any sort is never good news for a team, a problem with his hand would explain some of the unbelievable misses the former Knicks forward has had lately.
On Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, Fields came under the basket and out the other side clear of defenders but could not convert a basic lay-in. In Dallas, Jose Calderon hit him on the run with a pass a step from the backboard. All Fields had to do was kiss it off the glass but he failed to take the pass cleanly and never did get a shot off.
At this point it’s only speculation that a move involving Fields was in the offing but with the hand issue now out there, Casey has more justification to pull the trigger.
The likely scenario, should Fields be moved out of the starting five, would see Alan Anderson bumped into the starting role at small forward.
The other major piece of news heading into Friday’s practice was how soon point guard Kyle Lowry will be back.
Lowry, the Raps leader in points, assists and tied for the team lead in rebonds with Amir Johnson, suffered a low ankle sprain in the loss in Oklahoma City that began the Raps forgettable two-day road swing. He sat out Wednesday’s game in Dallas and was a non-participant in practice on Friday.
When a player doesn’t practice the day before a game, that is normally a pretty good indication that he won’t be ready for the game, but Casey was unwilling to rule out his starting point guard.
“Kyle will be a game-time decision,” Casey said. “He is feeling much better. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow when he wakes up. He didn’t practice today but we’ll see what he does tomorrow with his hometown team of Philly in.”
Casey is well aware how much Lowry wants to play against his old team. He’s even looked at Lowry’s past games against the Sixers based on his comment about Lowry having some of his best games against Philadelphia.
But Casey says the ultimate decision on whether he plays or sits won’t come down to the coach.
“The doctors and the trainers, we have one of the best training staffs in the NBA, they will know,” Casey said. “Kyle knows his body. As a coach if a guy tells me he can go and he’s in uniform, it gives me the opportunity to play him and use him as a tool, but I don’t make that judgment. If a guy says he can go and the doctors say he can go, he’ll be able to go.”
As for the actual practice Friday, Casey basically turned back the clock to 2011 and ran a defence-only practice.
“Today we got after it, man,” forward Anderson said. “(Casey) posted the defensive percentages last year versus now and we could see where we let off. We want to get back to where we were at least last year and those will bring wins right there, just getting back to that.”
Casey said the team has lost its defensive identity and the defence-only practice was all about fixing that.
“We are going to get back to that,” Casey said. “We have to get those numbers down. Our major problem is not protecting the paint. We are stretched out. Our steals numbers are up and that’s not a number I like because that means our paint is open. Last year we were third or fourth in protecting against points in the paint and that’s what we have to do. That’s where our problems start. The other part is getting back in transition to give our defence a chance. Most of those are in the first quarter for whatever reason.”
Having identified the two major areas of concern, Casey also said a defensive turnaround is going to require more effort from all his players.
“Our compete level (on defence) has to pick up one through five,” he said.
Whether a change is made in the starting rotation or not, or whether Lowry is able to play or not, Casey knows sorting out the defensive lapses will be paramount if the Raptors hope to get back in the win column.
Quite often the best responses from a player, even one as unlikely to provide insight into the inner workings of his team like an Andrea Bargnani, come from the most innocuous questions.
So it was on Friday when Bargnani was asked what Dwane Casey said to his team at the break following that horrendous first half of basketball in Dallas.
“He has to say always the same things because we had such a bad start that he’s forced to say the same thing,” Bargnani said.
And there, in a nutshell, is what has been going on with the Raps going back to the pre-season.
It’s Groundhog Day every game for this group, or just about every game. Bad start after bad start that has a head coach repeating himself time and again. For the most, the Raptors manage to rally and make a game of it but, as was the case in Dallas, the initial hole is usually just too deep to dig our from to get a win.