Dwane Casey

Raptors coach Casey on whether eye surgery will help Rudy Gay improve: ‘I’m keeping my fingers crossed’

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Many NBA observers were happy for Dwane Casey when he got another chance at being a head coach with the Toronto Raptors to start the 2011-12 season.

Casey is known for having a high basketball IQ, and for being a no-nonsense, defensive-minded coach. And many believed he didn’t get the fairest of chances while holding the head coaching job in Minnesota for a very short one and a half seasons from 2005-07.

But a coach can only go as far as his players take him, and Casey hasn’t exactly been flooded with talent to work with over the past two years with the Raptors. With a new GM in place in Masai Ujiri, Casey in all likelihood has one more season to turn things around before the team goes in another direction.

And he knows that the play of Rudy Gay will be as big a factor as any in whether or not he meets expectations.

From Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

Gay is the big name on the Raptor roster, and though he averaged 19.5 points after coming to Toronto from Memphis in a late-January trade, he shot just 42.5 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from the 3-point line. But Gay has suffered a decline in his 3-point shooting as his career has gone on, and the hope is that the dip is the result of astigmatism in his eyes. He had surgery to fix the problem after struggling with it for years.

“If you look at his career, it has steadily gone down,” Casey said. “He has complained about his eyes, he tried to wear goggles, and that didn’t work. He is supposed to be wearing contacts, and he didn’t like the contacts, he didn’t like having anything on his eyes. So they elected to do the surgery. I am keeping my fingers crossed. For some players, they get that done and it is like seeing a new rim. Hopefully, the same thing happens with him.”

Hope is not a strategy, as the saying goes, and even if Gay improves his shooting to become a more efficient player, Casey will be challenged to get the most out of perennial underachievers like DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, as well.

Combine that with the loss of Andrea Bargnani (which is a good thing) and a slew of new players to integrate — none of which are superstars — and it’s going to be tough for Casey to retain his job after next season.

Remember, we just saw George Karl get the axe in Denver after leading the Nuggets to the best home record in the league last season, and we saw the Grizzlies choose not to bring back Lionel Hollins after he led them to a franchise-best postseason run to the Western Conference Finals.

The point being, the new regime in Toronto won’t need much in the way of an excuse to cut Casey loose either during or immediately following the season if things don’t come together quickly, and a lot of that could hinge on whether or not Gay is able to stop the steady decline that his coach has noticed.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.