It wasn’t just one thing that led to Toronto Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri deciding to fire Dwane Casey after the coach had just led the team to a 59-win season and the No. 1 seed in the East. It was the slow buildup of a lot of things — most of them game-management related (not Casey’s strong suit) — that pushed Ujiri to make an unpopular and difficult decision.
However, the final nail in the coffin of Casey’s job may have been this play, LeBron James‘ game-winner in Game 3.
While on one side we should give credit to Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue for not advancing the ball to halfcourt for the inbound, allowing LeBron to get up a head of steam coming down the court and making it harder to double him, the fact Toronto went with single-coverage and now help on the play when it was obvious to everyone on the planet who was going to take the shot frustrated Ujiri to no end, reports Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada.
Ujiri’s frustration with Casey’s inability to transfer regular-season success was rising, according to multiple sources….
According to multiple sources the confusion and subsequent lack of execution on the final play was another log on the fire. After the game, Ujiri stormed into the Raptors dressing room at Quicken Loans — just out of sight of most of the players but not out of earshot — and rebuked Casey in the coach’s office for failing to double-team James. Ujiri didn’t reserve his frustration for just Casey – he also tore into the officials in the hallway as well. But observers noted that the intensity was more than typical for Ujiri, who can run hot at the best of times.
It wasn’t just those things in this series. It was Game 2 when the Cavaliers started using the Kevin Love/Kyle Korver corner pick action that left Jonas Valanciunas in no-man’s land. Or in that same game when the Cavaliers started doing pick-and-roll actions that left C.J. Miles switched onto LeBron, and LeBron would just post him up and score (that happened five or so times in a row without an adjustment). Or in Game 4, when Casey went to Lucas Nogueira at center in a four-point game for no good reason. Casey was outcoached against Boston.
Does all that warrant firing Casey? Not alone. Ujiri just felt with this roster and this coach the team had gone as far as it could, and with both Boston and Philadelphia fast on the rise in the East (plus whatever LeBron decides to do this summer) the Raptors needed a change. Coach was a spot where change could be made more easily than the roster (which Ujiri assembled, and has its flaws).
The big question for the Raptors now: Who’s next? Who is that upgrade?
Not an easy question to answer. (Well, not Drake is the easy answer, but beyond that…)