The mood in the Toronto Raptors locker-room following Wednesday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was reported as disheartening but coach Dwane Casey says he’s keeping an even keel as the NBA season is a marathon rather than a sprint.
"Disheartening is a tough word because there are so many more games to go and there are so many more things that can happen," Casey told Tim & Sid on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday. "An NBA season is a marathon and if you look at each game as disheartening and discouraging you won't make it through to the next one."
Casey believes his team will suffer hiccups on occasion but if his players learn from them, they will be better in the long run.
"We're going to stub our toes but we have to learn from it, get better and continue with the process,” the Raptors coach explained. "If we do all of the fundamentals -- offensively and defensively -- within the process, winning will take care of itself."
The hosts told Casey that the mood of his team's supporters could also be described in an unhappy fashion after the Cleveland loss, but the Raptors coach encouraged them not to throw in the towel.
"I hope our fans are not disheartened or down or giving in or giving up -- we haven't," he said.
"To get disheartened and give in with 25 games to go, that's a little bit much, Casey said. "We haven't given up. We haven't given in. We don't talk about, ‘we've got to make the playoffs.’ We talk about getting better as a team on both ends of the floor." Local whipping boy Andrea Bargnani did not have his best night in Cleveland but Casey pointed out that there is plenty of blame to go around.
"Everybody wants to put the spotlight on Andrea and he had some mistakes last night but again it was a team thing, Casey said. "Andrea is not playing at the level he wants to play at, where we want him to play at, but he's no different than anybody else."
Casey has spent plenty of time with his players going over their defensive rotations and Bargnani seems to be struggling on his own end of the floor which raised the question; is he coachable?
"There's no question he is coachable," Casey said. "It's misguided to put everything, a lot of our woes, on Andrea. Do we want him to play better? Yes. But it's not all on his back. It's on all of us. We're all in the foxhole together."
While there remains a tiny glimmer of hope for a playoff appearance, the Raptors coach was asked how good can this team, as constituted, be.
"You are always looking to improve your team, Casey responded. "I know Bryan does a heck of a job, and Ed does a heck of a job of scanning the league, seeing the league, knowing the league and knowing what pieces we will need going forward in the future that will help us get there. Veteran toughness is huge."
Casey said he expects rookie forward Jonas Valanciunas to take his game up a notch next season as he will help solve the team’s woes on the inside.
"Productivity in the paint and I think that's going to come with the maturation of Valaunciunas, whose going to be better. This time nex
t year we will be able to have quite a few post-ups for him. His game will elevate to that level. I think we can be really good going forward in the future."
The Raptors coach likes the core of his team and expects the front office to build around his two top wings.
"Rudy is great. It's going to be built around Rudy and DeMar," he said. "I think DeMar DeRozan's growth has been unbelievable."