Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Raptors fire Dwane Casey

19 Comments

Two days after Raptors president Masai Ujiri declared “I believe in Dwane Casey,” Toronto did what it had been building toward.

Raptors release:

Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri announced Friday that Dwane Casey has been relieved of his duties as the team’s head coach.

“After careful consideration, I have decided this is a very difficult but necessary step the franchise must take. As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level,” Ujiri said. “We celebrate everything Dwane has done for the organization, we thank him, and we wish him nothing but the best in future. He was instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team, and we are so proud of that.”

Casey guided the best run in Raptors history. After a couple losing seasons to begin his tenure, Toronto has won at least 48 games and made the playoffs each of the last five years – including a franchise-best 59 wins this season.

But the Raptors underwhelmed in the playoffs annually – including this year, which they tried so hard to make different.

Toronto implemented a “culture reset,” overhauling the offense and empowering the bench. Everything was designed to improve the teams postseason fortunes.

The result: Getting swept by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the second round, same as last year.

Ujiri said he won’t blow up this team – nor could he easily. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka have hefty salaries guaranteed for the next couple years. Keeping this core intact guarantees a high floor.

Firing Casey could raise the ceiling.

Casey is a good coach, and I don’t think he was Toronto’s problem. But maybe he was. He did himself no favors this postseason. At this point, it might be worthwhile to try someone else. Changing coaches is far easier than changing players.

This will be Ujiri’s first coaching search. He inherited George Karl with the Nuggets and Casey in Toronto. That Casey made it this long with an executive who didn’t hire him is somewhat surprising, though Casey’s run wasn’t without multiple potential firings previously.

The Raptors have a few strong internal candidates – assistants Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian and minor-league coach Jerry Stackhouse. Toronto also has a strong veteran roster that could attract top available outside coaches.

Casey was already named Coach of the Year by his peers. He could win the more prestigious Coach of the Year award, as voted by media. He would’ve had my vote if I had one.

The NBA won’t announce the winner until its June 25 award show. By that time, Casey might even be working for another team. Whether he’s employed elsewhere or unemployed, this sets up an awkward moment if he walks across the stage to accept an award for the quality work he did with the Raptors.

Report: Spurs annoyed some in Kawhi Leonard’s camp by not giving him 2014 contract extension

AP Photo/Darren Abate
Leave a comment

Kawhi Leonard proved to be a burgeoning star while leading the Spurs to the 2014 championship. He won Finals MVP at age 22, a huge accomplishment just before becoming eligible for his rookie-scale contract extension.

San Antonio gave him… zilch.

That actually made sense. Leonard’s cap hold in the summer of 2015 was just $7,235,148 until he signed. If he inked a max extension the previous year, his cap number would have been $16,407,500 the entire 2015 offseason. The Spurs used the resulting $9,172,352 in cap flexibility toward signing LaMarcus Aldridge. Then, they used Leonard’s Bird Rights to give him a max deal – with the exact same terms an extension would have stated.

The plan worked perfectly.

Unless it didn’t.

A few years later, Leonard requested a trade, which San Antonio granted yesterday to the Raptors. Obviously, his quad injury played a prominent role in the rift between Leonard and the Spurs. There was also contention over a super-max extension this year.

But that 2014 contract saga might have planted seeds of the fractured relationship.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

It annoyed some in Leonard’s camp that the Spurs had him wait for a max contract after the 2014 Finals to keep cap space free for the following summer, but Leonard understood the logic and appeared to accept it, sources familiar with the matter say.

At the time – before he even got his max deal in 2015 free agency – Leonard said:

“I was never upset about (the extension),” Leonard said. “I mean they explained to me what their deal is and why they didn’t do it yet. That’ll play out. I’m just here to play basketball and have fun and try to win another championship. If I think about that, then I’m not going to be the same player that I am and will be just out of it. …

“I don’t think I’m going anywhere,” Leonard said. “I mean they love me here. I like the organization, and if it was up to me, I want to finish out with one team like a lot of great players have done, to stay with one organization their whole career and just be loyal to that. You never know. We’ll see what happens next summer, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a Spurs jersey for my whole life.”

How does it go from Leonard saying that on the record to this?

This report will accomplish two things:

1. It will raise even more questions about Leonard’s advisors – whether they know what they’re doing and whether they or Leonard run the show.

2. It will enable rookie-scale-extension-eligible players and agents to strike fear into teams. Nobody wants to wind up in San Antonio’s situation. In a copy-cat league, teams might become more willing to sign players to early extensions rather than wait for following summer for new deals – even at the expense of cap flexibility.

Mavericks add Jenny Boucek to coaching staff

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
1 Comment

DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks have added Jenny Boucek and Stephen Silas as assistant coaches.

The club made the announcements Wednesday.

Boucek will be an assistant to the team’s basketball staff and will be involved with special projects. Boucek spent last season as a player development coach with the Sacramento Kings, making her the third woman to coach in the NBA. She was an assistant with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm when they won championships in 2004 and 2010 and was their head coach from 2015-17. She was the head coach of the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who had her help with Dallas’ training camp in 2014, said she “will be involved in wide-ranging basketball assignments.”

The hire comes months after a Sports Illustrated report that indicated Dallas had a hostile workplace for women in the organization, and after the Mavericks hired former AT&T executive Cynthia Marshall as CEO.

Silas spent the previous nine seasons as an assistant with the Charlotte Hornets and was associate head coach last season. In 2015-16, he helped lead the Hornets to a division-best 48-34 record and the franchise’s second playoff appearance in three years. He is heading into his 18th season as an NBA assistant coach.

Dwyane Wade signs ‘lifetime’ deal with Li-Ning

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
2 Comments

MIAMI (AP) Dwyane Wade has signed a lifetime contract with Chinese apparel company Li-Ning.

Wade made the deal official at an event in Beijing on Wednesday with the company’s CEO and namesake Li Ning, who is revered in China for his gymnastics success.

Wade’s relationship with Li-Ning began in 2012, after he previously was an endorser for Converse and Jordan Brand. In addition to the continued production of basketball and lifestyle apparel, the new deal calls for Wade to take “a greater role” in youth developmental camps and basketball clinics in China and other parts of the world over the coming years.

Wade finished last season with the Miami Heat. He has not decided if he will return to the Heat next season, which would be his 16th in the NBA.

New Bulls forward Jabari Parker: ‘They don’t pay players to play defense’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
16 Comments

Jabari Parker never found his footing with the Bucks. Parker’s injuries and Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s ascension left Parker – a top recruit then No. 2 overall pick – trying (and often failing) to to fit into a complementary role he clearly never envisioned for himself.

After signing a contract to become the Bulls’ highest-paid player, Parker is unapologetically embracing a new mission.

Parker, via 670 The Score:

I just stick to my strengths. Look at everybody in the league. They don’t pay players to play defense. There’s only two people historically that play defense. I’m not going to say I won’t, but to say that’s a weakness is like saying that’s everybody’s weakness. Because I’ve scored 30 and 20 on a lot of guys that say they play defense.

If you know the game, you also know that everyone’s a pro, right? And you know that certain guys have an average. No matter what you do, they still get that average. They pay people to score the ball, and I would hope that somebody scores the ball on me if they pay them that much. So, I’m not saying that to cop out or nothing. It’s the NBA. We’re professionals. Everybody scores. It’s just about limiting them as much as you can, trying to contain them.

A better offense wins a championship.

Parker is generally right. Scoring is rewarded far more than defense. If NBA teams don’t want to encourage that attitude, they ought to pay players more for other skills. Until then, players like Parker – who has no salary guarantee beyond this season – will continue to be drawn to scoring.

Parker is also correct that certain players get their points-per-game average no matter what. What he fails to explain: If that player needs too many shots to get it, he hurts his team. Good defenders force inefficiency from their opponents.

But, again, players who get theirs in the points column are often rewarded in salary.

So, expect Parker to hunt his points during his upcoming contract year.

These quotes only reinforce what we’d already seen from Parker. He showed glimpses of strong defense during this year’s playoffs, but that was rare for him. His skill set and approach are offense-first.

And great offense probably beats great defense. But offenses are rarely reliably great. Defense more often can be. The Warriors, as exceptional as they are offensively, are also elite defensively. I’m not sure Parker grasps that.

It’s on Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to convince him, but managing this issue is easier said than done. Not only does Parker bring years of habits to Chicago, he’s playing to prove himself next season. The Bulls have a team option on him for 2019-20.

Parker will most positively affect winning by trying hard on both ends of the floor. He might most positively affect his bank account by saving his energy for offense.

You might not like him saying it, but it’s also reality.